Penticton's new tourism model gains vote of confidence

It looks as if Penticton will have a new tourism board running in time for the 2012 season after the Penticton Hospitality Association endorsed a new governance model this week.

The PHA, which represents the majority of hotels and motels collecting the two per cent additional hotel room tax, has been working with the City of Penticton to develop a new 11-member tourism board, with six directors elected from their ranks and the other five representing other areas of the tourism sector.

“We have been working around the clock to develop a best-of-class model that provides appropriate representation from those who collect the hotel tax, and also gives a voice to the rest of the tourism community,” said Trinka Pontes, chair of the PHA. “This model allows us, as accommodators, to work with the entire tourism and hospitality industry to have positive influence with how those tax dollars are spent.”

The PHA proposal will go before council on Monday, and if passed, will stabilize governance of the city’s tourism sector, which has been in flux since November, when council voted to give the contract to handle the city’s tourism, economic development and visitor information services to the Penticton Business Development Group. Those services, which had long been handled by the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, were to be taken over by a non-profit society formed under the PBDG.

The PHA, however, expressed concern that their members had not been consulted about the change and eventually voted against allowing the PBDG to handle the $425,000 fund generated by the additional hotel room tax. As a result, the PBDG folded and the deal collapsed in February.

Jesse Campbell, tourism marketing manager for Penticton and Wine Country Tourism, said she and her team are excited to see the new proposal come forward, which will oversee tourism marketing and the Visitors Centre, but not economic development.

Campbell said the model is based on similar ones used by destination marketing organizations in other areas of the province. While the accommodators hold the majority of the seats on the board, Campbell said their roles are all the same, to generate an increase in tourism revenues. The five remaining seats will be filled by representatives for the City of Penticton, wine and agri-tourism, another for golf, skiing and other sports tourism, one restaurant and retail and one for arts, culture, heritage and attractions.

“The intent of the 11 directors is to work together to generate demand for travel to Penticton,” said Campbell. “In many other destinations, there is a majority of accommodators on the governance structure.”

The City of Penticton is not releasing details yet as to how the other directors will be chosen or how economic development will be handled in the future, but Mayor Dan Ashton admits this has been a disruptive time for the tourism sector. The city and PHA, he said, have been working hard to create an entity that will work for everybody.

“The stakeholders are now having their meetings with the various groups that are associated with tourism to make sure they also support the governance structure that is being proposed,” said Penticton city manager Annette Antoniak.

Jason Cox, president of the chamber of commerce, said that if asked to submit a proposal, the chamber would be happy to entertain taking on economic development, but said it seems to be a grey area with the city right now how that will be handled. But the tourism proposal, he said, looks to be well-thought out, and he is glad to see it is industry-driven.

“The chamber is very concerned for the well-being of the business sector in the city,” said Cox. “We’re anxious to see the city moving forward again, to regain some of the momentum we’ve lost.”

During Monday’s PHA meeting, the association elected six directors from amongst its membership to sit on the new board, including: Peter Diakonow, Waterfront Inn; Amy Xu, Granada Inn; Ed Brown, Shoreline Resort; Norm Sekora, Rochester Resort; and Marko Cucnik from the Penticton Lakeside Resort. Pontes, who owns three motels, will also have a seat on the new board.


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