Event draws 100,000 people to downtown Vancouver
BY SHAWN CONNER, SPECIAL TO THE SUN
FEBRUARY 23, 2016
Business of Auto: Auto Show keeps on growing
The Vancouver International Auto Show is Western Canada’s largest consumer trade show. In 2016, nearly 100,000 people walked the floors of the Vancouver Convention Centre to check out hundreds of new, classic and customized cars.
This was a jump in attendance of almost 17 per cent from the previous year, according to organizers. This year could set attendance records, if enough Americans are enticed by the falling Canadian dollar to come up to see the more than 400 vehicles on display.
Whether or not the attendance record is broken, the sheer number of people coming to downtown Vancouver for the show is sure to once again affect local business.
“What’s really good for our industry is that you have that many people circulating around downtown Vancouver,” said Ian Tostenson, President/CEO of BC Restaurant & Food Services Association.
“They’ll go to the car show and then they’ll go out and entertain themselves. If you imagine the effect of a hockey game, when you get 18,000 people who hit the city to go to the hockey game, it’s the same type of effect, but like consecutive hockey games.”
The Auto Show has international appeal, with car enthusiasts coming from all over the world to see premieres of eagerly anticipated models, like this year’s Acura NSX and the Lexus LF SA.
But the 96-year-old Auto Show has also grown and adapted to try to appeal to a broader range of visitors, such as those who are simply curious about new models and the latest tech, people looking to buy a new car, and enthusiasts of customized, one-of-a-kind and classic cars. Parents can drop off their kids at a playcare centre, free of charge.
“Under one roof, in one spot, you get to compare, sit in and smell the best of the best in global vehicle manufacturers, and that’s a unique opportunity you don’t get in other venues,” said Blair Qualey, president and CEO of New Car Dealers Association of B.C. The organization, which is made up of more than 365 new car dealers, runs the annual event.
One reason for the step up in attendance last year, Qualey says, is that the Auto Show stepped up its activity on social media. The 2015 show also benefited from word of mouth, says show manager Jason Heard.
“People came to the show and they would tell their friends because it wasn’t the same old auto show. Whether you’d been coming for the last 10 years or this was the first time you’d been in 10 years, you would have experienced something completely different for the Vancouver market place.”
The Auto Show brought back features such as exotic cars and commercial vendor space, which the show hadn’t had since moving from BC Place Stadium five years ago.
This year’s will be slightly bigger than last year’s, with a few more vehicles in an expanded outdoor display area, though shorter by one day.
The Show “is very important to us,” said Craig Lehto, general manager of the Vancouver Convention Centre. “It’s our biggest consumer show. It’s still an event that can grow with the building and with the facility.
“The car industry is strong in this province, and it’s a very important aspect of all our lives. The show’s growth is natural. It’s being met with a lot of effort from the producers of the show themselves.”
Although the show attracts out-of-towners, attendees are primarily from the Lower Mainland, says Philip Barnes, regional vice-president, Pacific Northwest and general manager, Fairmont Pacific Rim.
“We don’t anticipate to be sold-out,” Barnes said.
“Generally, we see an increase in visitation from some of the corporate entities. For example, BMW will usually have a good number of people with us. We probably see more traction in the outlets, in the restaurant and bar during the course of the show. It’s probably more related to that than to occupancy. But it generally creates some compression in the downtown core.”
The Auto Show’s growth reflects the health of the auto sales sector in B.C.
When Qualey did his first auto show in 2009, he recalled that “The wheels were falling off the economy, manufacturers were going into bankruptcy in the United States. It was a challenging and scary time in our industry, but we still had our auto show to do.”
Now, the industry is at the tail end of three consecutive years of record sales of automobiles in B.C., Qualey says.
“It’s an exciting time in our sector, and an opportunity to not only share with consumers what’s going on in our industry but also for our members to celebrate how far we’ve come in a short period of time.”
One aspect of the industry the Auto Show isn’t overlooking is an anticipated growth in job opportunities.
“The grey tsunami is rolling through our industry, like many,” Qualey said. “We’re probably going to have upwards of probably 16,000 to 20,000 jobs in the next decade available to people.”
The BC New Car Dealers Association is working with Skills BC on an exhibit for people who are looking for a new career, or for parents with kids wondering what kind of career they might want. The Auto Show is presenting a one-day hiring fair on the 24th.
“Our industry’s become a profession now,” Qualey said.
“It’s really a high-tech business. We’re making sure we’re providing opportunities for people to learn about that as well.”
2016 Vancouver International Auto Show, March 23-27 at the Vancouver Convention Centre
By the Numbers
98,694: The number of people who attended the 2015 Vancouver International Auto Show.
84,506: The numbers of people who attended in 2014.
3,663: Number of worker badges issues for the 2015 show.
400+: electrical drop locations.
7,259 ft/2,213 metres: installed truss.
1,000: mounted lighting fixtures.
156,000 lb / 71,000 kg: suspended equipment.
200+ trailers: delivery set-up.
$1.9 billion: GDP directly pumped into the BC economy by new car dealerships (net)
$11 billion: amount of economic activity generated by new car dealerships in B.C. (representing 17 per cent of all retail activity in B.C.).
$10.7 billion: Total automative retail sales in B.C.
36,198: Number of fulltime people employed in B.C. by new car dealerships.
$1,004 a week: Sector average weekly employee earnings (about $461 more than average weekly retail earnings in B.C.)
*2014 numbers, **2013 numbersSource: B.C. New Car Dealers Association
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Read more, click here…