Nanaimo’s hospitality industry, bolstered by festivals and events, is enjoying its best year in recent memory. Although July has traditionally been the busiest month for Nanaimo tourism, largely due to festivals, the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) and local hospitality industry want to add new events to attract tourists year-round. Currently, Nanaimo’s Marine Festival is the city’s single biggest downtown event and its third major weekend one, following the city’s Dragon Boat Festival and Silly Boat Regatta. This year, according to Nanaimo Hospitality Association chairman Dan Brady, hotels were fully booked during the Dragon Boat Festival because the British Columbia (B. C.) Athletics Jamboree, a track-and-field event, occurred during the same weekend. People flew into the city and took an airport limo to their destination which was usually a nice hotel. Brady, who manages the Harbourside Howard Johnson Hotel, said the event buoyed already strong tourism numbers during the historically busy month of July. Again, this weekend, a sporting event is enhancing tourism with the B.C. Baseball 18U Midget AAA provincial baseball championships.
Although Nanaimo appreciates the recent boost in tourism, it wants to make it a more routine occurrence. To this end, the hospitality association will soon start accepting proposals for new festivals. Successful proposals will qualify for funding from a two-percent hotel tax. The ultimate goal of this grant, according to Brady, “is to have events every month of the year.” However, as experienced festival organizer GNCC CEO Kim Smythe noted, successful events need effective organizers and “it’s unfortunate [we are] lacking people with enough professional expertise to properly organize a good festival.” Smythe hoped more successful festivals could be developed like the Comox festival in July, the Pemberton Music Festival and the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival in August. He believed that August was under-utilized and that “a concerted effort” should be made to add to its event offerings, as well as to those of September.