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Penticton tourism groups could be melding

The roller-coaster that is tourism in Penticton has taken one more twist, but this time it might be heading back to the starting point.

Sally Pierce, vice-chair of the Tourism Penticton Society, along with chair Miranda Halliday, met on May 31 with Penticton Hospitality Association chair Robert Appelman and another board member.

“It was facilitated by an industry facilitator and the goal of that was to find common ground and work ability between the two organizations,” Pierce reported to Penticton city council this week, adding that the two groups had agreed on a statement.

“Both boards are committed to working together on tourism for Penticton. We are in dialogue and have more common than not,” said Pierce. “All confirmed and agreed one organization would be more effective and transparent than two separate organizations working in silos.”

Appelman describes the meeting as just four people discussing the issues facing both organizations.

“We just had a meeting to get through some of our differences, because we are two new boards, and come to an understanding of how each board works and what we are looking for, information wise, to move forward,” he said, adding that talking about creating a single organization may be premature.

“I haven’t even gone to my board yet to talk about the meeting. This is something we will be looking at in the future,” said Appelman. “For right now, the focus is on the summer and fall. Focus on that first and work together … if we see that we can work together then we can move on to maybe combine into one group. At this point it is very preliminary, just talking.

Tourism marketing for Penticton has been divided since earlier this year, when the PHA was granted control over the two per cent hotel room tax, which is collected by accommodators for external marketing of the community.

It totals about $400,000 per year, more than half the former annual budget for Penticton tourism marketing.

According to Pierce, everyone involved in the meeting agreed both groups were committed to the success and growth of tourism in Penticton but that the current structure and communication between the two groups is not effective.

“The current situation cannot continue as is,” she said. Coun. John Vassilaki agreed, and wondered why Pierce thought they would be successful this time, considering work done previously to bring the two groups together.

“This is in very preliminary stages. We just wanted to update you on the current status and what we hope will resolve moving forward. Nothing has been signed,” said Pierce, adding that part of their optimism comes from the previous work. “I think it is coming down to timing. I think that as we move forward, it’s becoming apparent that one body is stronger than two. We can only continue to try.”

Pierce said the two groups have plans to keep the conversation moving with more meetings at different levels.

“Once PHA and TPS staff have met and reviewed what funds remain, as well as which initiatives could be jointly supported in 2013, these initiatives will be  presented at a joint board meeting to be held the third week of June, that will be the board of the PHA and the board of tourism Penticton,” said Pierce.

The PHA has always wanted to work with Tourism Penticton and has funds to support their projects, according to Appelman, but is just looking for the right information. However, he said the PHA plans to continue its focus on helping events fund their marketing efforts, like the $35,000 they recently granted Challenge Penticton.

“I feel that funding towards our events is our core, that we really need to make them shine, so that people can realize that Penticton has a lot to offer … so we can bring back that atmosphere of Penticton as it used to be,” he said. “We need to show people there is a lot going on throughout the shoulder season and the summer.”

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