Opinion

Thomson: August is ‘staycation' month in B.C.

When discussing their plans for summer vacation, people sticking around town sometimes find it tough to make ‘staying home’ sound exciting. But the Okanagan is such a spectacular region this time of year—why go anywhere else?

It turns out they may be on to something, because ‘staycations’ are growing in popularity. August is being proclaimed “Staycation Month in B.C.” by our government, and there are many advantages to this type of vacation.

You can save on expenses by sticking closer to your home base instead of hopping on a plane, and if a B.C. road trip is in your sights, you can plan the most efficient route using www.drivebc.ca. You’ll also save yourself the stress of dealing with airport lineups, security checks, flight delays and the like.

Staycations also give you an opportunity to be a tourist in your own city or province. Often times, we take for granted the many world-class adventures available in our own backyards. Here in B.C., we’re lucky to enjoy six diverse regions that are worthy of a visit. Check out www.hellobc.com for an overview of these distinct areas that make our province so special. From hunting and fishing in B.C.’s North or Cariboo Chilcotin, to the bustling arts and outdoor recreation scenes of the Vancouver, Coast and Mountains region, to the tranquil settings of Vancouver Island-- there is truly something for everyone.

But perhaps most importantly, staycations support our local economies. When people want to experience our popular Kelowna wine industry they often come through our airport, stay at a hotel, take a wine tour, purchase a bottle or two, enjoy meals in our restaurants, and enjoy other attractions and entertainment in the city as part of their trip. It’s easy to see how even a short tourist visit can spur many economic opportunities for the area.

Tourism is a critical industry for our province as a whole as well. In 2012, revenues from the tourism sector were pegged at $13.5 billion dollars. Tourism generated a direct contribution of $7.1 billion to B.C.’s gross domestic product, accounting for 3.7 per cent of the province’s total GDP – an increase of 1.5 per cent over 2011.What’s more, the tourism sector employed 127,300 British Columbians in 2012—that’s nearly 1 in every 15 jobs in BC. In 2012, the tourism industry paid $4.3 billion in wages and salaries to tourism workers, an increase of 4 per cent over the year before. The number of British Columbians working in tourism-related activities is the highest it has been since 2009, and there are more than 18,000 tourism-related businesses in the province.

The outlook for the tourism industry in 2014 is looking bright. 2013 was a good year as international visitors to B.C. were significantly up over 2012, especially from some of our key markets like the U.S. and China. The latest numbers for 2014 show these strong trends have continued into the first five months.  Year-to-date statistics updated in May indicate visitation is up over the same period last year. Overall international overnight visits were up around 7 per cent; U.S. overnight entries were up more than 5.6 per cent, and overnight visitors from China were up 31.2 per cent.

But we need to keep that momentum going. Consider ‘staycationing’ this summer and supporting the local farmers selling mouth-watering produce and artisan goods. Let’s sip and swirl at our local wineries, relax at our soothing spas, and check out an art gallery or two. Let’s make sandcastles at the beach, practice our water-skiing, or rent a houseboat and kick back for a few days. Let’s support local business and explore our beautiful province at the same time.

 

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