Tourists at the WildPlay Element Park in Kelowna this summer will tackle the Monkido Aerial Adventure tree-top games and zip-line; DragonFLY Zip Lines

Kelowna Tourism expects great things for summer 2014

Okanagan hotels are filling and there's more breadth in the list of things to do, tourism organization says

Summer 2014 is shaping up to be a very busy season, according to Tourism Kelowna’s Nancy Cameron who says hotel and motel bookings are up across the board.

“It’s a very positive outlook for this part of the year,” said Cameron, the long-time chief executive officer of the organization.

“We’ve been on a good build, but it has taken a while for the tourism industry overall to recover from the recession,” she added.

Statistical analysis of the Central Okanagan’s tourism industry is done every five years by InterVISTAS group and figures from 2011 show the 2008 crash left tourism spending down just three per cent by the time the rebound was over. The deficit fell largely in restaurant and retail spending and, while the tourism organization does not have numbers to back the claim as yet, Cameron is sure the Central Okanagan has rebounded and then some.

Nancy Cameron“The whole personality of Kelowna is really becoming quite exciting,” she said. “…We’ve got this amazing urban vibe and there’s just so much happening.”

From new restaurants opening to the explosion of local theatre groups (seven in total) to the five wine trails (with 25 wineries), new agri-tourism ventures, golf courses and, of course, the beaches and lake, the area is offering something for everyone.

Advertising launched in February and March, staggering messaging throughout Western Canada, Ontario and targeting the lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual community in Los Angeles.

“We know it’s resonating because our website traffic is up 27 per cent over this same time last year,” Cameron said.

Tourism Kelowna primarily targets destination golfers, wine enthusiasts and family vacationers, but the goal is to develop a brand strong enough that those targets are more of a behind the scenes marketing approach. Ultimately, the organization wants the word “Kelowna” to say as much as the name “Whistler” says to most tourists—synonymous with the type of experience this city offers.

Some 75 per cent of those who travel to Kelowna for a vacation have a family income or $75,000 or more, while only 25 per cent fall in the $150,000 or more category. This is a family destination.

“The number one draw for us is still the lake,” Cameron said. “It sets the environment for everything and we can never take it for granted.

“The lake, the beaches, the parks, all of that infrastructure municipalities provide that allows us access to the lake, that’s so important for us.”

Some of the new destinations Tourism Kelowna is targeting to draw visitors include Whitehorse and Fort McMurray, the latest destinations to come online with non-stop flights to the area.

As for the competition, residents in B.C. are being lured to Oregon this year by a heavy-saturation marketing campaign, and the overseas draw is always present.

Locally, the big attractions this year are expected to be the new adventure tourism sites. From the zip-lining outfits to the WildPlay Element Park, out Highway 33, and the new Myra Canyon Adventure Park, tourists and locals alike will be taking on some big challenges in the name of relaxation this year.

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