Stellar year for tourism in Thompson Okanagan

Outgoing president of tourism group calls on everyone to chip in a little to the effort

Michael Ballingall said this has been a stellar year for tourism in the Thompson Okanagan.

Ballingall, outgoing chair of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and vice-president of the Big White Ski Resort, gave his last address at the TOTA AGM Wednesday.

“I am not going to say everyone had the best year in their history, but a lot of people were reporting they had best years, and that is exciting,” said Ballingall, who touched on social media, accessibility and the renewal of the 30-year-old Super, Natural B.C. brand in his speech.

“I don’t know if you have been on the (Destination B.C.) website, but go. Engage our brand,” he said. “Our brand kicks ass.

“Super, Natural B.C. is one of the strongest brands in the world and members of TOTA have their fingerprints all over that brand.”

Now that the brand renewal is rolling out, Ballingall said it was the membership’s turn to get on the bandwagon and start doing what they could do to contribute.

“I just encourage you to do the simplest things, because when we do those in numbers, we make a difference,” said Ballingall. “Everybody doesn’t think that a Dash 8 landing in Penticton can make a difference. It does.”

Ballingall focused on transportation through much of his speech. Along with WestJet’s addition of direct  flights between Calgary and Penticton, he noted their direct flights from Kelowna to Fort McMurray, United Airlines adding a flight to San Francisco, and Pacific Coastal adding flights between Cranbrook and Kelowna.

“There is a positive vibe out there,” said Ballingall, noting the expansion in accommodation and housing throughout the region.

“We have people that want to relocate here. They want to live the dream and we happen to work the dream.”

“We live in supernatural B.C., the world wants to come and play with us. We are the area  that is going to drive tourism in B.C. The rest of the province is full.

“We are the ones that have bed capacity, we have the lakes, we have the resorts that can take more people,” said Ballingall.