Christina Newberry is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer based in Vancouver.
Hosting the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship was a tourism boon for Copenhagen and nearby co-host city Herning.
Hotel occupancy of Copenhagen’s 22,000 rooms was nearly 100 per cent for most of the tournament, which wrapped up Sunday (May 20) at Royal Arena. Compare that to 86 per cent occupancy in May of last year, according to statistics from Wonderful Copenhagen. The municipality estimates that the tournament has resulted in 60,000 bed nights.
Three hours away in Herning, where Team Canada played its preliminary games, hotel capacity was no match for the influx of hockey fans. As one of the smallest cities ever to co-host the World Championship, Herning created a custom village for fans in the MCH Messecenter Herning fair and exhibition centre, right next to Jyske Bank Boxen Arena, with accommodations including tenthouses and indoor pup tents.
Total attendance at the World Championship was more than 520,000, according to the IIHF, with several sell-out games in both host cities.
When PAX visited Copenhagen during the tournament, the strong fan presence was clear. Fans were decked out in team colours from the city centre to the arena, with the Swedes and Czechs making the most flamboyant wardrobe choices. As we watched Team Sweden beat Team France 4-0 at Royal Arena, Swedish fans sported blue and yellow wigs and facepaint, while some very enthusiastic French fans donned full spandex bodysuits to represent their country’s flag. Sweden would go on to win the tournament’s gold medal.
That team camaraderie is a key reason fans travel to international sporting events, said John Carroll of Destiny Tours, a Guelph-based travel agency that has been running hockey tours since 2000.
“Although it’s more fun when Canada wins, our people are rarely disappointed with the trip when we lose,” Carroll told PAX from Copenhagen, where he was leading a group to watch the tournament finals. “We have so much fun that winning for us is just icing on the cake.”
Carroll and his wife, Rita, got into the hockey tourism niche with a tour to the 2000 World Junior Championships in Sweden. Their record group size was 529 people travelling to Helsinki, Finland, for the 2016 World Junior Championships.
“We started with a small group of people in cooperation with Hockey Canada,” Carroll said. “As this side of our business grew over time, we decided to narrow our focus more on hockey. It’s the best sport in the world so I’m not sure if our hearts would be into offering a trip for any other sport.”
It’s created a large repeat client base – their most frequent travellers have joined nine Destiny Tours hockey trips.
Sport tourism represents $6.5 billion in spending in the Canadian tourism industry, according to Statistics Canada’s Travel Survey of Residents of Canada and International Travel Survey.
The 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey men’s World Championship will take place in Bratislava and Košice, Slovakia, next May. The World Junior Championship will take place in Vancouver and Victoria from Boxing Day 2018 to January 5, 2019, creating a perfect opportunity for hockey fans from across Canada to travel to the West Coast and cheer on the home team.
Travel professionals wishing to learn more about Copenhagen can find the Certified Copenhagen Specialist training program online at visitcopenhagen.com/traveltrade. Agents can learn more about upcoming IIHF tournaments at IIHF.com.
Ticket packages for the World Junior Championship in British Columbia are available at hockeycanada.ca/tickets, and information on Destiny Tours’ travel package to Vancouver for the tournament can be found at destinytours.com/events/hockey/2019_wjhc_vancouver