Penticton continues to serenade WestJet
Penticton is continuing to work hard on catching the eye of WestJet to bring a regional service to the city.
A grassroots movement brought forward a Facebook group, Twitter campaign, online petition and it now appears a multimedia campaign is in the works by the city.
“I don’t want to indicate what we are doing, but we are planning to do something a little bit out of the box to get the attention of WestJet,” said Annette Antoniak, city manager in Penticton. “We want to make sure Penticton is noticed. We have reached out to different stakeholder groups in the city to help out with that to ensure we get the best and biggest exposure as possible. Once we get to the point we are ready we will be reaching out to everyone. We need you all to get behind this.”
Penticton council and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen have drafted letters and sent them to WestJet indicating their support of a regional passenger service to land in the city.
Antoniak said data is being crunched to put in the form of a report that WestJet would be able to use in their consideration of bringing the service to Penticton. She said they are looking into data that tracks the numbers of people that travel from Penticton to either Washington state or Kelowna to fly because of a lack of service in the city.
“We have asked to have a meeting set up with the (WestJet) CEO and the VP responsible. They said they are just going through some more analysis work. We are very excited about it and we are hoping to get in to see them within the next two to three weeks,” said Antoniak. “We put notice in that we are very interested and we have an airport select committee that has been established by the mayor and city council.”
Antoniak also acknowledged the grassroots work done by citizens in the area by starting and joining the Bring WestJet to Penticton Facebook group and the conversations that continue on Twitter using #WestjetPenticton.
Penticton resident Rob Murphy created the Facebook group, which now has 1,385 members, and an online petition — go to www.change.org and search Bring WestJet to Penticton — that had 1,113 signatures as of Thursday morning.
“I don’t see it slowing down. It is gaining a lot of traction,” said Murphy, adding the Eat. Drink. Tweet. conference held in Penticton on the weekend added about 3-400 signatures thanks to the participants’ social media prowess.
While Murphy said everyone has their own selfish reason for wanting WestJet to fly out of Penticton, the bigger picture is the boost it would provide to the tourism industry.
“There is not just a lot of traffic coming out of Penticton, but people coming from abroad to Penticton. Look at all the wineries we have in the South Okanagan ... We are the heart and soul of the wine industry in the Okanagan,” he said.
WestJet is looking to have a fleet of approximately 40 smaller, turbo-prop aircrafts for a short-haul regional airline. This has caught the attention of many communities across Canada who are all trying to catch WestJet’s attention. For example, Murphy said Brandon, Man. has an online petition with about 8,000 signatures.
“That is why it is important for everyone to keep on thinking about it and promoting it to their friends, family and work contacts. It is not going to be over next week, this is something that needs to continue to build and keep momentum until we hear definitively from WestJet,” said Murphy.
“My role is at the grassroots level and I am very happy with the support we have been getting from citizens, organizations such as the Downtown Penticton Association, Tourism Penticton and the Eat. Drink. Tweet. event was also very key.”