Spending expected in restaurants, bars and hotels
CALGARY — In the perfect world, Warren Flemming would love to have mega-celebrity Oprah Winfrey visit Calgary every day.
After all, the personality known throughout the world has simply generated a business bonanza in the city for her one-night appearance tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Flemming, general manager of Olives Restaurant which is located near the Dome, said the establishment has been booked solid since early January for this evening.
“I can’t take on anymore people between the hours of four and six o’clock. It’s jam-packed,” said Flemming of the establishment which seats about 150.
On a regular Tuesday night, Flemming said he would be happy to see about 40 to 50 people.
“For the last week and a half I’ve been turning away people that have been calling,” he said. “Every day for about the last week and a half we get about 20 people requesting a table here for the Oprah event. If I had a bigger restaurant, I’d be even fuller.
“Oprah’s definitely been good business for us for that Tuesday especially. If she could be here everyday, we’d be laughing.”
Calgary businesses can thank the foresight and determination of local entrepreneurs Christian Darbyshire and Andy McCreath, of tinePublic Inc., for the major coup of bringing Winfrey to the city. In fact, the producers also lined up shows in Edmonton (last night) and in Vancouver (Thursday night) with the media mogul.
In Calgary, the event sold out in one day with ticket prices ranging from about $100 to about $400 and about 13,000 people are expected to attend.
“It’s massive,” said Darbyshire, of the event. “Logistically, this is a beast. Everything’s big on a large scale. It’s the biggest tour we have ever put together.”
And the two have put on some major shows over the years. Past events in Calgary have included movers and shakers such as former U.S. president George W. Bush, former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Republican vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Calgary-based tinePublic Inc. has produced high-profile events and conferences across North America. It has also worked with former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, Lance Armstrong, Elton John, Tony Bennett and Diana Ross.
Darbyshire said Oprah’s visit to Calgary has a huge economic impact on the city with people coming to the event from outside the city and spending money here for tickets, for food and beverage, for transportation, for hotels.
“And then you have the other side of it which is the local impact of the producers and the sponsors and the amount of money that’s been put into production, sponsors putting money out for advertising, marketing,” said Darbyshire. “There’s a lot of different people doing a lot of different things which creates a lot of beneficial impacts to the local economy. A huge ripple effect.”
The entrepreneurs have always wanted to do a show with Oprah Winfrey. For several years, they have been trying to make contact without success. But they kept trying and persistence paid off.
McCreath said a huge economic impact has resulted because of past events the duo has produced in Calgary with huge celebrities — some of those events have been firsts.
“All those people it’s one of the few places in the world that they’ve all been. So I think that’s been really neat for the city,” said McCreath. “I think it says a lot about the City of Calgary too that all these people are willing to come here.
“Oprah’s a larger than life figure.”
And Oprah has had a ripple effect worldwide through media coverage and the Internet buzz, bringing global attention to Calgary.
Tourism Calgary recognized the potential of Winfrey’s visit when it first heard she was coming to town.
“We jumped on the opportunity because we knew there were two possible impacts on Calgary,” said Gisele Danis, vice-president of marketing and communications for Tourism Calgary. “The first one was a huge opportunity to market Calgary as a great getaway for major shows and events. And the second one was we saw an economic driver there.”
Danis said for the first time ever Tourism Calgary partnered with 14 major tourism partners to host a contest where 16 women will attend the Winfrey event. Contest entries numbered 9,000. Danis said a typical contest Tourism Calgary holds would generate about 2,000 entries.
She said tickets for the Oprah Winfrey show were primarily purchased by local people — about 60 to 70 per cent. But many tickets were purchased from outside the city — 10 per cent from Edmonton and northern Alberta; 10 per cent from Saskatchewan; eight per cent from Red Deer and southern Alberta; and five per cent from the United States.
“This had a huge draw in bringing people to buy the ticket first of all ... include a room night stay and then what’s wonderful even the locals will be spending money. They’ll be going to the restaurant before, the bar afterwards,” said Danis.
David Finch, assistant professor of marketing at Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business, said the fact Oprah’s show sold out in a matter of minutes reflects her enormous and broad appeal.
“But as importantly it also reflects the power of scarcity,” he said. “In other words, if something is both valued and scarce — demand will far out strip supply. The ability to measure the incremental economic impact of any event is challenging. In the case of Calgarians, it is simply a shift of entertainment dollars from one bucket to another rather than new money.
“However, the true economic impact occurs when an event attracts entertainment dollars from other markets. So for example, the impact is really measured by the number of attendees who travelled from Edmonton or Regina to stay for a night in the city that contributes real new dollars into the local economy.”