To the editor:
Why is the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce arranging the tours for their Travel & Learn program through an American company instead of locally?
The mandate for most Chambers of Commerce is to promote, support and encourage their local businesses, but perhaps Kelowna is different. Wells Gray Tours has been a member of the Kelowna Chamber for over 20 years. Since the inception of the Travel & Learn program in 2013, the Kelowna Chamber has offered most contracts to companies based outside of Kelowna and Canada which are then required to take out a membership. Local travel companies that are capable of organizing these tours have been ignored.
The Kelowna Chamber has just announced a tour to Iceland which is being operated by Collette Tours, one of the USA’s largest tour companies. This means that Chamber members are sending their travel money to Rhode Island instead of supporting a Kelowna business.
Wells Gray Tours has years of expertise running tours to Iceland. We know the hotels with the best locations, the attractions that must not be missed, the most knowledgeable Icelandic guides, and the vital experiences to appreciate this fascinating country.
The Kelowna Chamber did send us and a few travel agencies a Request for Proposal on Jan. 20 with a deadline of two days to respond with a quote and itinerary. When we protested such an unrealistic deadline, it was changed to Feb. 1 which was still impossible to meet. We start planning our Iceland tours two years in advance and even then it takes one to two months of communication with our suppliers there to set up the tour properly.
Unfortunately, the Iceland tour now being advertised by the Chamber will miss some key attractions and there will be some marathon travelling days on slow roads to visit everything promised on their itinerary.
With three tours being offered in 2016, it appears that the Kelowna Chamber is going into the travel business, in competition with its own members. The majority of travellers on these trips are not even Chamber members since spaces can be booked by anybody living anywhere.
Wells Gray Tours opened its Kelowna office in 1979. From our humble beginnings in Wells Gray Park in 1972, we now offer group travel throughout the world. Our employees have expertise in many countries that we would be happy to share with Chamber members and non-members, so it is baffling why a company in Rhode Island gets favoured over a local business.
Roland Neave, president and owner,
Wells Gray Tours Ltd., Kelowna