Resorts reaping benefits from growing event
By Lilian Sue
What started as a discussion on how to bring more business to the city of Parksville has evolved into the premiere event for the Parksville-Qualicum Beach area in the off-season.
Parksville Uncorked began in 2008 after a discussion between the Beach Club Resort and Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort on how to make Parksville the off-season tourism destination.
The Beach Club Resort took the initiative and organized the initial events with three goals in mind: to educate the public about the variety and accessibility of B.C. wine, drive business to Parksville and raise occupancy rates for both resorts during the off-season.
In the beginning, the festival was about making different wines (and smaller wineries) more accessible, allowing people to try something different in a smaller dose and giving them an opportunity to branch out of their comfort zones; without long-term commitment.
It’s a goal that Parksville Uncorked continues to live up to and even exceed.
Four years later, Parksville Uncorked has developed into one of the premiere events for the Oceanside region in the tourism off-season.
The event features 150 different B.C. wines featured at the festival’s signature event, Swirl.
The festival has even grown to include the second annual Parksville Untapped, in response to the explosion of micro breweries in the province; featuring micro brews from 18 different B.C. breweries.
It has also cemented a strong collaboration between the two resorts as well as local wineries, breweries and food vendors.
Tigh-Na-Mara and The Beach Club each take turns hosting Swirl and Untapped with Winemakers’ dinners at both resorts.
Each of the local resorts also sells tickets to the other resort’s event and the resort that hosts Swirl each year shoulders the marketing for the festival.
When the festival first started in 2008, both resorts saw locals and foodies alike buy tickets to the events but did not see a significant increase in occupancy.
According to Wendy Sears, director of sales and marketing for the Beach Club Resort, Parksville Uncorked has boosted occupancy rates by almost double for the resort.
On a regular weekend during the off-season, the resort would see between 30 and 35 per cent occupancy.
The numbers have now grown to be between 60 and 65 per cent four years later.
Tigh-Na-Mara has seen an even sharper increase in occupancy from a regular weekend in the off-season. This year, according to Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, director of sales and marketing for Tigh-Na-Mara, the resort is at full occupancy the weekend of Parksville Uncorked and the weekend after.
With people from all over the Island and other regions of B.C. now making Parksville Uncorked a destination for their weekends, ticket sales are now starting much sooner year after year and attendance for Swirl in 2012 reached nearly 500 people.
Parksville Uncorked has also helped both resorts build repeat business and customer loyalty after the festival each year.
Tigh-Na-Mara receives more bookings from groups and conferences for consecutive weekends after the festival, leading to more weekends with full occupancy. More media outlets have also taken part in and attended the festival as it continues to grow, including SNAP Victoria and Wineries Refined magazine, based in Kelowna.
What does Parksville Uncorked 2013 and beyond look like?
The goal is to have the festival continue to grow, reaching out to potential guests in Victoria, Vancouver and from out of the province and to consistently bring full occupancy rates to both resorts. Fruit wines as well as a more regional focus are being considered for 2013 and a cocktail event is being considered for three to four years down the road, possibly as a separate event.
To both resorts, each following year is an opportunity to maintain the partnerships with existing wineries and food vendors as well as cultivating strategic alliances with new vendors.
Media partners will also continue to be an important part of the collaboration as Parksville Uncorked seeks to showcase more about the community and why Parksville is a premiere destination.
Partnership is the cornerstone of any successful event and for Parksville Uncorked, it is successful partnerships that have put the Oceanside region on the culinary map.
Lilian Sue is a Victoria/Vancouver based freelance writer & blogger. For more of her writing, check out http://inretrospect21.wordpress.com.