Right in the centre - Passive tourism one key to a town’s viability


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Ihave known many people who are dismissive about the value of hockey in rural Manitoba. There are many more who may never have thought about the value of hockey games and tournaments. The same can be said about any event that brings people to town.

Towns that have a junior or senior team, are fortunate indeed. The value of bringing people from out of area to our towns has an astounding effect on the economy.

While I would be the first person to speak out loudly in support of shopping local, occasionally, an opportunity arises to travel to another town and enjoy what that community has to offer. Such was the case last week when my wife Christine and I travelled to Portage to watch a junior hockey game. We didn’t overspend, but it was an interesting trip to say the least.

First stop was the MCC Thrift Store. Nearly every town, large or small, has a thrift shop of some sort and they are almost always worth the stop. A couple of books and some fabric totalled up to about 10 bucks. Next stop was Ian’s Hardware, an independent store on Portage’s main street, the famous Saskatchewan Avenue. That stop yielded a set of wood drill bits that I hadn’t seen in other stores and we added a jug of windshield anti-freeze, which we could have bought at home, but were running low, and so we decided to stock up. That purchase came to $43.60. Next stop was a larger hardware chain store and we spent $40.07 there on some things that we needed. Then it was off to dinner at Over the Coals, a Greek restaurant that we have been to three or four times and it never disappoints. This rather small restaurant is owned by a Greek couple who make everyone feel like family.

In between those stops, there was a stop at a pharmacy for some cold medication.

The real reason for the trip was the junior hockey game, at $26 for two tickets and $5 for a Chase-The-Ace ticket. Now, we didn’t win the CTA but, hey, we helped out their team.

While the real reason for the trip was the hockey game, it was also just to take a break, go some place just for fun. We spent a total of $176. With the usual 7:1 economic spin-off ratio, that means we created over $1,200 of economic activity.

This little story repeats itself thousands of times across Manitoba. The reason for the trips can be varied, from hockey, to figure skating, to baseball or a local festival or fair. The point is that tourism isn’t all about flashy events or huge occasions. It might be called passive tourism. We need to be aware that rather mundane events also bring people to our towns. Our little Portage excursion shows quite clearly how important this passive tourism can be to a community.

To keep teams and events and communities going, we need to all dig a little deeper. When a hockey game is staged, wouldn’t it be nice to at least half fill the arenas? When a community supper is staged, shouldn’t there be 200 to 300 in attendance rather than 75 or 100?

When it comes time to volunteer or contribute to a local team, bonspiel, festival or any event for that matter, let’s get out and make things happen. In the bluntest of terms, sitting at home on our computers or in front of the big screen TV isn’t going to help keep your community alive. Getting involved in community events will.

So, what happens if we don’t get involved and keep our communities alive? Quite simply, they diminish. If that happens, you can watch what is likely your biggest investment, your home, diminish in value over time. It’s hard to sell a house in a dying town. The simple message is that not only is supporting local events fun, it contributes directly to our wealth. Not a bad deal really when you can have fun and protect your own investment at the same time. Our little trip is simply an illustration of how simple events all add up to help keep communities viable. The size of the community doesn’t matter, it’s the principle that counts.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.