While preliminary figures show the number of visitors that attended Kelowna’s tourist information centre was down slightly this weekend over last year, tourism operators were generally happy with the May long weekend, the traditional kick-off to the summer tourist season.
Stellar weather, several annual events and the wine and golf industry brought a steady stream of tourists to the Okanagan over the May long weekend, hinting at a continued rebound in the tourism industry since the low of 2009.
“Weather tends to play a big role in long weekend activity and we had a beautiful long weekend,” said Catherine Frechette, communications manager at Tourism Kelowna. “We had a lot of people inquiring about camping, wine touring, golf, some wedding parties, all those types of activities that bode well for tourism.”
In terms of geographic markets, the majority of inquiries to Tourism Kelowna on the weekend were from Alberta, specifically Calgary, as well as other parts of B.C. including the Fraser Valley.
Frechette said most people were asking about the area’s attractions, wineries and parks and were also asking about maps and ways to get around the area.
“One trend that has been taking place that is continuing is last minute bookings. We are seeing a lot of people holding back to see what the weather is going to do before they make their plans last minute.”
In terms of accommodations, Frechette said the hotel industry is feeling good heading into the 2013 season with small increases year over year dating back to ‘09.
“There is optimism for sure,” she said. “We’ve made small gains in the last few years and are climbing our way back from the recession in ‘09. As of last year, we are not quite at the same numbers when we look to the peak in ‘08, but we are climbing back.”
One thing making it more complicated to track tourism numbers is the public’s growing reliance on online ways of finding information rather than actually going into the visitor centre. Tourism Kelowna’s Facebook page is the most popular one in Kelowna and the company also receives many requests for information via it’s Twitter handle (@kelownavisitor).
“It’s going to be an interesting summer,” said Frechette. “It’s all heading in the right direction.”