Letter: Kelowna Tourism Centre’s white elephant — where are the visitors?

One reader kept a tally of visitors at the centre

To the editor:

I have excellent information to confirm a very accurate (Univ. Penn. Statistical Analysis (JFFD) Methodology) survey conducted (i.e. good-weather, representative sample hours; randomly selected days) of 3,939 people on immediately adjacent, Queensway Jetty/Walkway during Kelowna Waterfront Tourism Centre inaugural operating season in Summer, 2018.

Most surprisingly, only 517 (13.1 per cent) actually entered the visitor centre at all (86.9 per cent declined to enter). The survey suggests, if 108,000 announced from Tourism Kelowna Annual General Meeting (AGM) is correct overall total —only 41,569 were true visitors. Why? A whopping 61.5 per cent surveyed entered the building to use the washrooms only. Factored to the 108,000 reported—it would clearly translate to 66,420 visitors entered merely to use the washrooms only. Let us re-evaluate recently reported 108,000 total visitors (AGM six-month) w/ above survey findings.

According to Survey, only 5.05 per cent of 3,939 Queensway visitors actually entered the building for tourism-related purposes or 199 entrants. So, what did the other 318 people surveyed enter the building for? Answer: washroom!! Of the 517 inthe study who entered, only 38.49 per cent entered for tourism-related (not just for washrooms). In survey calculations, if extrapolated to the 108,000 reported, equals significantly less guests. If 38.49 per cent per cent of 517 = 199 —then, factored equally 38.49 per cent of the 108,000 equals only 41,569.

READ MORE: Popularity of new Kelowna visitor centre exceeds expectations

Moreover, the survey found there were even less (65) 12.6 per cent visitors who engaged whatsoever with the “lonely” but cordial employees inside. This number could similarly be interpolated (six-month figure) to merely 13,608 staff interactions—probably less, see below! (Hopefully, this info. will be valuable for any future hiring needs.) Wasn’t this number only small fraction (10 per cent?) of the numbers promised us by Tourism Kelowna in discussion sessions leading up to public hearing, approval and $8 million value package of investment/tax credits granted to Tourism Kelowna in 2017—and numbers promised us earlier this year? Compared to other tourist regions in much less populous towns, it certainly is! For example, Soulac, France, a very modest, tourism beach town of 2,524 (2014 census) during the same six-month period this year also received well over 41,000 tourists to their much smaller, Visitor Information Centre located two and a half blocks from the waterfront.

Also, Royan, France, population 18,388 (2014 census) (100 km NW of Bordeaux) received (over a comparable period), an estimated average over 1,500 visitors per day or 200,000 to their Main Street, non-waterfront location. Surveyors intended /preferred a sample of all 3,939; but found 3,422 refused to enter Visitor Centre or “thought about it” and declined— not expected result nor fault of surveyors at all.

Please note, during the survey period, for 12 tour buses counted (44-Seat Provost-type) parked and unloaded at Queensway (appeared to be foreign tourists) —only six persons total entered Kelowna Waterfront Visitor Centre. Surprisingly, nearly all specifically avoided it “to go look at Sails,” etc. Was this not main reason centre was located at Queensway waterfront? Were we not promised it would “harvest” from new, ‘severely-funneled walkways’ all pedestrian foot traffic—one of the reasons used to justify expense and location?

Could not positively confirm (so didn’t include), however, calculated 10 per cent of actual ‘VSE’ were actual Kelowna residents—one-time, tire-kickers, who entered to see ‘shiny’ new facility (neither tourists nor likely to return). Would have made translated AGM numbers even more un-impressive; only future will confirm. Finally, recent Tourism Kelowna numbers presented cannot be translated “2x” to calculate an accurate expected ‘annual count’ of e.g. 216,000 (compared to six-month) —as these 1st six-month numbers were taken mostly during busiest expected weeks of tourism months/ seasons. Instead of strutting and crowing about their numbers, perhaps this is a time to be embarrassed and ashamed. Expect numbers to go down in 2019 as the shine goes off. Any additional print, internet and/or media publicity to improve miserable attendance regarding the location of Kelowna Tourism Centre at Waterfront will defeat the purpose; as exactly contrary to supplied original purpose (harvest pedestrians already in area—i.e. were told “tourists no longer utilizing motorist-friendly centres” ). Many Kelowna residents consider this project true “poster-boy” for White Elephant compared to what was advertised,’ sold as’, previous locations or suggested alternatives. Recommend be torn down, moved, closed or otherwise relocated to a more cost-efficient, effective, tourism-friendly location—perhaps on Highway 97 North at Sexsmith Road and /or Highway 97 South (in West Kelowna) with ample parking or on Main Street Bernard Avenue. Respectfully, Kenneth Cappos Kelowna, B.C.

Further Research Background Notes: My intention was to interpolate survey numbers, using Soulac, France details (See Link) for a whole year to achieve accurate representative (fewer visitors would be expected in “shoulder” 1/3 and “low” Winter “2/3” are my estimates only—but am not an expert. Have additional information from Royan, France, an average of 1,200 to 1,500 true Summer visitors per day—which is 10x new Kelowna Centre —all for a town of only approx.12,000 people. Note, neither of the ‘Off-waterfront’ French tourism centres have washrooms—so others can’t claim their numbers may have also included washroom-only users. Both located on Main Street approx. two blocks from Waterfront and do draw people into Central Business district. I can give you the link. I can scan and send you what my (my projections only using the above rationale) for your records. I am willing to share, still have all my messy, but legible rough data. Willing to do a walk at Visitor Centre site to demonstrate methodology and ability to clearly follow patrons and their actual use patterns of Visitor Centre through large glass windows as they moved through the building.

Ken Cappos


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