The board of Tourism Abbotsford Society says it is “shocked and disappointed” to hear that the City of Abbotsford is seeking proposals for the operation of Tradex.
The city announced last Wednesday (March 24) that it has commissioned a request for proposals as the first step towards “transforming the property into a revenue-generating asset.”
At a Zoom press conference, Mayor Henry Braun did not discuss what those options could be, saying only that the city wants to see what opportunities might be available.
Tourism Abbotsford has been running Tradex since 2003, with all revenue generated reinvested into the property and Tourism Abbotsford operations.
Executive director Craig Nichols said a 2017 economic impact study detailed that the total amount spent in the community derived from Tradex events was almost $15 million.
He said the direct impacts contributed almost $7 million in gross domestic product and $5.2 million in wages, while generating 366 jobs and approximately $2.5 million in taxes.
Nichols said “a new revenue stream” for Tradex will be devastating to the local tourism and hospitality sector, including hotels, restaurants and retailers.
“Abbotsford is not a traditional leisure travel market, as it does not have beaches, lakes, and resorts, but what it does have are well-attended, revenue-generating, large-scale events. Losing Tradex would cause 80 per cent of current events to relocate to other communities and remove one of our key strengths as an event destination,” he said.
Tourism Abbotsford board president Daniel Laverick said event tourism is a strong economic driver. He said there is no other facility like Tradex in the community.
“Losing it as an event space would be pushing millions of dollars per year, and hundreds of potential jobs, into neighbouring cities. We feel that this is an incredibly short-sighted decision to remove such a highly regarded community outlet,” he said.
Just last month, Tourism Abbotsford announced its plan to reignite the local tourism economy following the negative impact of COVID-19.
The formation of an events advisory committee was announced with nine representatives from Tourism Abbotsford’s staff and board, the City of Abbotsford, Abbotsford Centre, Tradex, Sport Abbotsford, the Chamber of Commerce, the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association, and large and small event producers.
“The board of the Tourism Abbotsford Society strongly believe that Tradex should remain a large-scale event venue as events will be critical to rebuilding Abbotsford’s visitor economy post-pandemic,” Laverick said.
He said the board and staff believe the community will stand behind Tradex for this purpose.
Among the events regularly held at Tradex are the Vancouver Motorcycle Show, the West Coast Women’s Show, the Fraser Valley Home and Garden Show, the Snowbird RV Show and the BC Custom and Classic Car Show.