Sparks fly at council over tourism funding

The dispute over tourism marketing funds in Penticton was highlighted at city council’s regular meeting Monday during discussion over a grant request from the Apex Freestyle Ski Club.

Coun. John Vassilaki took both the Penticton Hospitality Association and Tourism Penticton to task for why they weren’t supplying the money, since the request was intended to entice entrants in a national ski competition later this month to fly into Penticton Airport rather than Kelowna.

“I am really upset that Tourism Penticton didn’t step up to take care of this,” said Vassilaki.

After all, we gave them funds to promote Penticton and facilities, to get tourists to the city.

“And I am just as disappointed with the Penticton Hospitality Association  for the same reason.

“They are the ones that should be stepping up to the plate and taking care of these costs in order to promote our city.”

Both PHA operations director Tim Hodgkinson and president Rob Appelman said their organization hadn’t been approached by the ski club, though they would have considered the request.

“There are lots of events where people come to us,” said Appelman, who wondered why the ski club hadn’t been referred to the PHA.

“We should be looking at doing this, but we spend most of our time fighting the city.

“They have been on our backs for a year and it is getting to the point of being ridiculous.

“That’s grossly unfair of someone to infer incompetence on our part if we have not actually been approached.

“It seems on the surface to be exactly the kind of thing we would be delighted to talk about,” said Hodgkinson.

“We still have funds and it is business as usual. We are continuing to support worthwhile initiatives that help market the community.”

Coun. Helena Konanz, who brought the request to council, said organizers are expecting the championships will draw 200 athletes, plus their families, coaches, officials and sponsors.

The promotion would send each of the athletes Penticton airport luggage tags and a toque, promoting that there was a closer airport.

James Shalman, sports tourism director for Tourism Penticton said the ski club’s event and the planned promotion are worthwhile, but don’t fit with Tourism’s objective of drawing new people to the area.

“Its a great opportunity for tourism in the area, but it doesn’t fall under our mandate,” said Shalman, who is also general manager for Apex Resort. “They are going to come, regardless of whether they fly into Kelowna or the Penticton airport. For us to spend $4,000 on athletes coming to the area, it just didn’t seem like the best allocation of funds.”

Konanz pointed out that the request was made last minute.

“Maybe if they (Tourism Penticton) were given a little more  time they would have been able to support it,” she said.

“And I don’t think the PHA was approached.

“I don’t think we should bash them either,” she said.


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