Tourism is one of those rare economic sectors that affects everything around it.
“Direct or indirect, every business is ultimately touched by tourism,” said Jessie Campbell, CEO of Penticton and Wine Country Tourism.
Campbell talks about her hairdresser to illustrate her point.
“I would never have thought of a hair salon as being affected by tourism,” said Campbell. “People need to get their hair done all the time, it’s not affected by how busy the city is.”
That turned out not to be the case. Many women on vacation are looking to pamper themselves, and with many professional conferences coming to town, Campbell describes her hairdresser’s business as going through the roof in the summer.
“So much of our economy is based on tourism,” she said, pointing out that in B.C., the tourism industry accounts for about four per cent of the province’s GDP.
“Of that $13.8 billion, $1.73 billion is the value of tourism in the Okanagan,” said Campbell. While she doesn’t have figures specific to Penticton, that is something the new CEO of the new tourism group is putting a priority on.
“That’s one of my ambitious goals for this year: to get a better sense of what that number is, what the value of our industry is in Penticton,” she said. Having hard numbers, she explained, will allow her organization to do a better job advocating on behalf of the area’s tourism industry.
And while Penticton and Wine Country Tourism is a non-profit organization, Campbell thinks that means they need to be as or more businesslike than a for-profit.
“We don’t have a revenue stream. Every bit of revenue we generate goes back into furthering the activities of the organization,” she said. “Every dollar that we invest has to return far more.”
Many economic sectors are extremely valuable to Penticton, but Campbell said tourism’s impact is unique.
“The intangible value of what makes somewhere a great place to live is largely to do with how attractive it is as a destination,” said Campbell, explaining that people choose to live, work and retire in destinations that are attractive. “The community’s brand and identity is very often tied, in successful economies, to the tourism brand,” said Campbell. “Not very often is it tied to another industry’s brand, though that industry may be an incredible contributor.”