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Big events in Edmonton bring city new visitors and prestige

M.J. Smith’s family loves to travel. They’re from Arizona and have decided to be in Edmonton for the next four days.

“We like to expose [our daughter] to different things, different cultures, different countries, different places. So we chose this as one of our stops this year,” Smith said.

Smith didn’t come to Edmonton just to see the city. The family wanted to watch the FISE World Action Sports Festival, held in Hawrelak Park.

On Friday afternoon, the family wandered through the park, watching BMX professionals practise and mountain bike riders take huge, multi-storey jumps.

When they’re done for the day, Smith says they have other plans.

“We’re going to see your mall, of course. THE mall. And just do a little exploring. We’re only here for four days,” Smith said.

It’s these stories that make tourism officials in Edmonton rejoice.

FISE is just one of a few major events in the city this weekend.

At Northlands Coliseum, Team Canada plays Team India in Davis Cup tennis. Some of the world’s best players are there.

Edmonton Tourism’s Renee Williams is excited about what such events represent.

“They’re so important for us and what we do in terms of driving that visitation into Edmonton,” said Williams.

Lately, more such events have come to Edmonton. This is FISE’s second year. Davis Cup hasn’t been in Edmonton since 1996.

Red Bull Crashed Ice was here in 2015 and attracted hundreds of thousands of people to downtown Edmonton for the race that sends skaters down a steep icy hill. The event didn’t come back in 2016 or 2017 but announced it will return in 2018.

Williams says the events are a sign of Edmonton’s gradual evolution into an international destination.

“We definitely know with some of those international events we’re being watched as a host destination. And they’re seeing the success of some of the events that have happened already. It means that we’re growing as an urban destination and urban centre. We’re growing in the international market. People are getting more awareness about us and they’re looking for more opportunities.”

More events means more visitors. Edmonton Tourism says the city has recently seen an uptick in interest from Dutch, German and U.S. travellers.

RV rentals for overseas travellers jumped dramatically in the last year.

Edmonton Tourism says more international and U.S. air traffic went through Edmonton International Airport this summer.

There is room to grow though, Williams says. Winter is coming. When it does, tourists don’t.

“Winter for us is a need period. We need to continuously work to get people here in the winter,” Williams said.

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