As The Square reported, 150 Canadians and Americans converged upon the once rosy city in mid-February to attend a conference of the Educational Developers Caucus. So many visitors exploring the area’s St Clair College and University of Windsor downtown campuses should be nothing if not a delight to the neighbouring merchants and restaurateurs.
But, what is even more fascinating, it will not cost taxpayers $14,705 for each visitor.
For those who have solidly fallen off of their chairs, yes, the city is paying an estimated $14,705 for every person who arrives in town to witness the FINA short swimming competition in December. This is based largely on apparatchik Tony Ardovini’s January 21, 2015, report to city council in which he estimated the event will need 10,000 hotel room nights over seven days.
The cost of the event has been pegged at $21 million in taxpayer money, questionably offset by outside sponsors if the city can find any. That remains doubtful given Magog, QC, had to cancel its FINA open water event last year reportedly because of ballooning hospitality demands by FINA and dim prospects for finding sponsors.
Simply dividing the number of room nights by the number of nights produces an expectation of 1,428 visitors. Divide that into the large fortune the city is paying to host these visitors and the result is $14,705 per person.
It is certainly a sad day for a city in such a dire financial situation as Windsor to be spending this kind of money for dubious results. Although, it is expected the calm hand of regional tourism leader Gord Orr will probably generate some steam and pretend the economic benefits will be in the millions of dollars. He will also, more than likely point, without even smiling, to the billions who will be glued to their televisions during the event.
Flighty mayor Drew Dilkens is on the record boasting more than two billion will be so glued. Based on what happened in 1964, when world sensation singing group the Beatles appeared on the popular Ed Sullivan television broadcast, which originated from New York City, the global crime rate is expected to dive right off the map during the FINA event.
It has to. Reports from 1964 talked of how New York went virtually crimeless while the Beatles sang their hearts out for an appreciative North American audience.
Unfortunately, the arrival of the educational developers will not have such a magnificent world impact but, noted University of Windsor President Alan Wildeman, it will be the, “… first opportunity to host colleagues from across North America in our vibrant new downtown core. It will be a true eye-opener for those who have never been to Windsor, and a source of pride for those who live here.”
That is all good, but it begs a very simple question. Why are there not more of these conferences?
It is because the city’s past inept council reduced the responsibilities of the former Windsor Essex Convention and Visitors Bureau? It is now called Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island and is headed by Orr, who mysteriously was let go during the reorganization and brought back a few years later. He was nicely handed less responsibilities.
The reality is, if the city had a convention attraction organization it could probably fill the region with convention goers on a weekly basis. It would be welcome sustainable economic development, not the costly, flash in the pan variety Dilkens brings to town to make himself worldly significant.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at 8:30 pm every Monday evening and noon every Wednesday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor is broadcast every Monday and Wednesday to the Windsor and Detroit listening area and streamed online at CJAM.