2021 is going to be a better year.
That was the message from Travel Penticton and the South Okanagan Event Centre to council on Nov. 24.
After seeing substantial losses and impacts from COVID-19, both groups are planning ahead for a more active year, which they can’t
“More than ever now, we want to make sure we keep the momentum going,” said Travel Penticton director Thom Tischik. “We can’t afford to stop, we have to keep rolling here, to keep Penticton in the eyes of travellers to keep them coming here.”
Part of that will include collaboration between the two, with Travel Penticton looking to develop a marketing strategy for Penticton that includes the event and convention capabilities of the SOEC and Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
“[The PTCC] is rare in the world these days to have this kind of conference centre in great condition and able to service large, large crowds,” said Tischik. “We want to work in direct collaboration and financial support to market the PTCC, SOEC and convention facilities and develop a stand-alone MICE — meetings, incentives, conventions, and events strategy.”
That marketing plan would be a work done over the next two years, and including administrative as well as other marketing aspects of the collaboration.
The SOEC had been on its way to a strong 2020, said Spectra general manager Dean Clarke.
“I was extremely confident with the way we had handled ourselves,” said Clarke. “Then COVID hit. Even with that our first quarter in 2020 was our highest grossing quarter to date.”
In that quarter, Clarke pointed to a number of high-profile shows, including Brad Paisley, as well as the return of family shows after four years with the Paw Patrol. Further, many of the events that were scheduled to happen in 2020 were postponed, rather than cancelled, including ZZ Top and the Young Stars hockey tournament.
Despite seeing a drop in business overall, Travel Penticton’s Tischik saw some benefits that may last beyond the pandemic.
“What we have had is a bit of an advantage, that more people have discovered Penticton than they would have in other years because they were forced to stay provincial,” said Tischik. “I think that was a great thing for us.”
The tourism group is already at work prepping some new marketing, including their Penticton ICONICS, which they sent some copies of to members of council ahead of the presentation. Those are part of some of the other avenues of marketing Penticton that Travel Penticton is exploring, such as for use as a filming location or COVID friendly events.
“An ICONIC could be the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, how do we work to make that asset the best we have, the best it can be,” said Tischik.
Unlike previous years, Travel Penticton is planning on building their campaigns in a more reactive fashion, due to the quick-changing nature of the pandemic and health orders around it. With only three full-time staff, that is something they see as being a benefit to allow them to react faster than larger tourism groups.
In addition to collaboration with the SOEC through their MICE strategy, Travel Penticton is looking to expand their reach and coverage to nearby areas of the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen, such as the Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, West Bench and Apex.
There were concerns on how Penticton will be able to stay competitive once the province begins to open up again, which will depend in part on how the labour market will turn out.
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