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Penticton toursism office launches Fly Local campaign

Tourism Penticton has teamed up with Air Canada to launch a Fly Local campaign aimed at encouraging local residents to fly out of Penticton as opposed to Kelowna. - File Photo
Tourism Penticton has teamed up with Air Canada to launch a Fly Local campaign aimed at encouraging local residents to fly out of Penticton as opposed to Kelowna.
— image credit: File Photo

Penticton may have lost the bid to bring Westjet to the South Okanagan, but that doesn’t mean the community has given up hope for a direct flight to Calgary.

The latest pitch is a just-launched Fly Local campaign aimed at persuading people not to bypass Penticton when booking flights.

“About  60 per cent of the people that are flying out of the South Okanagan don’t fly out of Penticton,” said Mayor Garry Litke of the campaign, which is a partnership between Tourism Penticton and Air Canada.

“They don’t even think about flying out of Penticton, they just go straight through to Kelowna,” said Litke.

“We need to stop them here, we need to say if you fly out of Penticton, it increases the likelihood of us getting that much-needed flight to Calgary and boost our numbers.”

The campaign features billboards placed strategically on Highway 97 in Penticton that aim to generate more demand for flights from Penticton Regional Airport.

The billboards will target the travelling public, informing them of flights available in Penticton, but will also specifically encourage bookings from local residents.

Increased service would also directly benefit tourism in the South Okanagan region, according to Jessie Campbell, CEO for Tourism Penticton.

“Working with a partner like Air Canada makes good business sense as we have a mutual bottom line of getting more bums in seats to Penticton,” she said.

Litke admits it will be a tough job persuading people to choose connecting flights out of Penticton.

That’s why, he said, the campaign is modelled on the Buy Local campaign, which has been successful in convincing people of the benefits of purchasing locally grown agricultural products rather than sometimes cheaper imports.

“People would buy the cheapest one and now they are looking at the labels. That has encouraged our local agricultural market and the ability for our local producers to sell locally,” said Litke, pointing out how the hour’s drive to Kelowna is equivalent to the wait for a connecting flight in Vancouver.

“So why not fly out of Penticton, spend that hour in Vancouver and boost the number for Penticton,” said Litke.

“Someday, because of their participation, we may be able to get that flight to Calgary. Then we will significantly shorten that travel time.”

And there are more benefits to flying out of Penticton, Coun. Judy Sentes points out. Not only will your car be closer to the terminal, travellers don’t have a long drive to get home after their trip.

“The more traffic Penticton Regional Airport receives, the stronger the business case for increased services,” said Litke, noting that the support of Air Canada in the campaign is a hopeful sign.

“They are trying to help us boost that number. There must be some interest, we just have to help them make the business case.”

The campaign may also help persuade Air Canada to bring back the extra flight to Vancouver, which was cancelled as part of their shift to a winter schedule, with expectations it will be reinstated in time for next year’s tourist season.

“We need to increase the pressure again and make sure they haven’t forgotten about us,” said Litke.

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