Weekenders' economic impact limited
By: Tanya Foubert
| Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 06:00 am
Canmore’s non-permanent population currently has a limited economic impact in the community.
Also known as weekenders, this population of people was the subject of a survey by the Town of Canmore as recommended by its economic development and tourism strategy.
Gary Buxton, acting general manager of municipal infrastructure, presented the results of the survey to council earlier this month.
Buxton said a previous study looking at the town’s weekender population looked at demographics, however, the economic impact was not examined.
“Their overall economic impact is limited because they are spending limited time in the community,” he said, adding that fact can be seen as a cup half empty or a glass half full. “We literally have nowhere to go but up.”
Buxton said 72 per cent use services in the community and they are for the most party related directly to property maintenance.
With 74 per cent of weekenders spend 42 days in Canmore throughout the year, they spend an average of $52 a day on property maintenance including cleaning, security, concierge, landscaping, snow removal, window cleaning, repairs and maintenance.
Restaurants and groceries also topped the list of services with an average of $29 spent per day by Canadian non-permanent residents while in town and $44 by foreigners.
In terms of amenities, trails and parks were by far the most frequently used in Canmore by weekenders, followed by events and festivals, the Nordic Centre, golf courses and spas.
In terms of professional services, Buxton said, weekenders use almost none, however he added they are highly satisfied with those services they do use.
Engagement in the community was another area examined by the survey and found low levels.
While 72 per cent donated to local non-profits or charities, the survey found weekenders were not very attached to the community.
“That is hardly new to those of us who have been in the community,” Buxton said. “There is not a high level of connection and engagement in the community.”
In addition to donating, the other highest form of engagement in the community is through attending events.
Buxton said the reasons given for low participation include they are too busy to engage and they also do not know what is going on.
Buxton added some of those who responded to the survey still have lingering feelings of resentment from a failed proposal several years ago to tax non-permanent residents differently.
“There is something out there around this differential taxation that is still simmering,” he said.
Spring Creek Mountain Village developer Frank Kernick said he agrees there is still resentment among the non-permanent population over the differential taxation scheme that was eventually scrapped.
However, he said, the taxation of tourist homes remains discriminatory against part-time residents who own that type of property but do not rent it out.
“If they are not using it as a tourist home, they should not have to pay the tax,” he said. “If you want them to feel like part of the community, stop treating them differently.”
Permanent residents who have property zoned tourist home who do not rent it out may apply to see the commercial tax rate changed to residential, but weekenders may not.
Kernick said he has found part-time residents, in fact, want to be engaged in the community, they just have to be asked and informed.
“What we need to do as a town is get better information to these residents and engage them more, either with volunteer opportunities or events,” he said.
With that in mind, SCMV started a website and weekly email for both residents and weekenders to list events in the community called What’s Up Canmore.
The 2011 survey results, which saw 600 responses, examined the aspect of weekenders’ effect on the economy as well as demographics, property use and engagement.
The majority of non-permanent residents live in cities and in particular, Calgary and Edmonton.
Their reasons for choosing Canmore were primarily because of the exceptional natural environment and scenic landscape, abundant recreational opportunities and small town size and townscape.
Buxton said the survey revealed something new about some Canadian weekenders in particular. He said it showed they chose to purchase a home in Canmore because it has good facilities and activities for seniors and access to health care.
On average, however, weekenders are the same age as permanent residents, with Canadians being on average 40 years old and foreign non-permanent residents being 46. They also have high educational attainment, much like permanent residents, and live in a variety of dwelling types.
Given their relatively low age, Buxton said it is not surprising they are not considering their second home as a place to reside once they retire.
“It is not surprising they are not giving a lot of attention to where they are retiring, it is a long way off,” he said.
Kernick, however, said the data could be read differently because average age of part-time residents includes children. Without that, the average goes to 56 and he believes the Canadian population in particular is indeed considering retirement and that is why they value facilities for seniors and health care.
“A large percentage of people buying our second homes are thinking about retiring here,” he said. “They are an important part of our economy and will become more important to the community as they relocate here.”
Their income also makes them affluent, with the median earning between $200,000 and $249,000, made up mostly from work earnings, but Buxton also said significant earnings are from owning businesses and investments.
However, many do not rent their homes out, with only 26 per cent overall choosing to rent their vacation property when they are not using it.
Canadian non-permanent residents rented their property on avaerage of 108 days a year while foreign ones were rented on average 978 days a year.
Residences that were not rented were occupied by their owners, friends and family an average of 42 days a year.
Buxton said that means 74 per cent of non-permanent residences were occupied a little over a month a year. Canadians used theirs more on weekends while foreigners were more seasonal.
He added those who rent their properties do so to other visitors, 61 per cent, and to permanent residents, 39 per cent.