Tourism leaders look at shoulder season

Penticton plays host to the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Summit Wednesday and Thursday.

Things are looking up for tourism in Penticton as the city looks to play host to the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Summit Wednesday and Thursday.

Chris Bower, executive director of Tourism Penticton, sits on the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) board and will be joining an expected 200 leaders in tourism from around the region at the tourism summit.

One focus point to be discussed will be growth in the shoulder season and winter.

“What we’re going to be doing this year is we’re going to be focusing on Apex,” said Bower.

He hopes the mountain resort will continue to draw winter tourism, as well as the wineries that remain open year round.

Events like the 2016 B.C. Winter Games, which are being held in Penticton, will also hope to draw in the numbers.

“That’s something the city worked pretty hard on in getting that, so we’re working pretty closely with the city now to attract more sport tourism, especially during the winter,” Bower said.

The summit will act as the TOTA annual general meeting and will also include information sessions and seminars held by expert representatives of high-profile companies like Google and TripAdvisor.

“It’s a really good opportunity for everybody in this area that’s in tourism to be able to go to this summit,” Bower said.

Having the summit take place in Penticton is a reflection of the success of tourism in Penticton said Bower.

“It’s not an easy thing to get in,” Bower said “Usually when they’re bringing (the summit) to a venue, they want to make sure that they’re bringing it to a venue that’s highly evolved in tourism.”

The theme of the summit this year will be “The Places We Grow… Being Social,” with a focus on online reputation management and growing industry through social media. A topic Tourism Penticton has already been focusing on.

“We’ve been working pretty hard at adjusting and changing our social media strategy, and it’s really starting to work out well,” Bower said.

The warm weather, marketing initiatives and an upward economic turn contributed to the estimated 20 per cent increase of tourism business in Penticton over the 2013 summer, said Bower.

“We’re getting indications we’re up,” Bower said.

That 20 per cent jump is based on revenue collected from hotels from January to July compared to 2013. The August and September numbers aren’t in yet but Bower said indications are that they are up as well.

“This has been a good year overall,” said Bower. “We’re hoping this is an upward trend. We’re expecting to see growth in our tourism.”