Alberta’s economy may be less robust than days past, but it hasn’t hurt Okanagan tourism just yet.
Room nights booked in local hotels and motels was up four per cent last year and the revenue those bookings generated rose by nine per cent, said Nancy Cameron, the CEO of Tourism Kelowna
Expectations that the upward trend will continue in the year ahead are high, despite economic struggles with the valley’s most reliable pool of visitors.
Coun. Brad Sieben raised this issue when he asked Tourism Kelowna’s Nancy Cameron whether Alberta’s recent reversal of fortune would have on the local economy.
She said her inside sources were quite positive about what’s to come, but they have their eyes open. “It’s something we’re monitoring,” Cameron said.
What may just help keep the flow of tourists to the Okanagan is the growing disparity between the US and Canadian dollar.
Cameron explained that US travellers only account for three to five per cent of all visits to the valley, so if that acts as a disincentive to heading this way it won’t really hurt local business. But, the high dollar could be cause for Albertans to not cross the line, choosing instead to spend their dollars on a sunny Okanagan mini break.
Although there are forces at play that Tourism Kelowna can’t do much about, Cameron said they have exerted their influence on the marketplace in a number of different ways, including bringing high profile events to the city.
Of note is the Great Okanagan Beer Festival, which is set to take place later this year. Also, there has been a great deal of ink spilled used extolling the virtues of Kelowna in national and international publications.
A large part of Cameron’s presentation hinged on the fact that the tourism organization has spent some of its budget on hosting journalists, and that’s paid off in spades. By her estimates the best value per dollar comes from getting a journalist or blogger, who’s well respected and considered credible by their readership to share their first hand view of the city. As such, the city hosted 102 travel journalists and bloggers last year.
“They produced 129 articles for a circulation of over 25 million,” said Cameron. “If we had to purchase that space it would be more than $2 million.” Cameron also pointed out that going forward, Tourism Kelowna will work harder to ensure that visitors find cause to head to the Okanagan during the shoulder seasons.