If you’re trying to book a hotel room in Penticton this weekend, be prepared for a string of “no vacancy” answers.
With the Canucks Young Stars Classic tournament falling on the same weekend as the Dragon Boat Festival and the Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival, accommodations are at a premium.
“I think we had a cancellation,” said Max Picton, manager of the Barefoot Beach resort. “I’ve got two yurts that have just opened up.”
Rob Appelman, owner of the Lakeside Villa motel, said he’s heard that rooms are so rare in Penticton that the overflow is spilling into other communities. Part of the activity, he said, comes from Connor McDavid’s presence at the Young Stars tournament.
“I think that is going to be a huge draw for the tournament, and then the jazz festival has its own following,” said Appelman. “With the three events on the one weekend, the town will be full.”
McDavid, probably the most talked about draft pick since Sidney Crosby, will be making his first appearance in an Edmonton Oilers’ jersey at the Young Stars Classic. Carla Seddon, marketing manager for the South Okanagan Events Centre, said that has been helping sell tickets for the already popular tournament.
“We’ve sold over 20,000 tickets. Three games are essentially sold out right now,” said Seddon. “Every year, the tournament sales have been better and better and the tournament is growing. This year, with Connor McDavid coming, ticket sales have been extremely good. We had Edmonton tour companies calling us before tickets even went on sale.”
Just the size of the tournament itself already accounts for a number of rooms. Seddon said that along with 95 scouts and members of the media, each of the four teams — the Canucks, Oilers, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets — will be bringing anywhere from 50 to 80 players and staff.
Altogether, that’s likely to be about 360 people, according to Seddon.
The Dragon Boat Festival is also looking to a big event, with more than 2,100 paddlers in 82 teams coming for their 15th annual race.
Race director Don Mulhall said it’s grown to be one of the largest sporting events in the Okanagan and one of the largest dragon boat festivals in the province. With so many teams coming to town on a busy weekend, he said, there was some problem find enough rooms, but that was overcome with some help.
“We contacted everybody we could think of,” said Mulhall. “Everyone jumped on it and started helping us find more rooms.”
Seeing the town this busy after the smoky skies of late August is a bit of a relief, according to Picton.
“It definitely affected us. Numbers are down this August over last year, between the smoke and the weather,” said Picton. Appelman said his motel wasn’t affected too badly, but he heard other accommodators were pinched.
“It most definitely didn’t help the city at all. Four days of smoke and that was followed by two days of rain. There is not much we can do about it,” said Appelman, who added that the overall season, from May through July, showed an increase over last year.
Appelman said the city, along with Tourism Penticton and the Penticton Hospitality Association, needs to continue developing the summer season as well as the shoulder seasons. Picton, also a city councillor, said the city’s drive to increase activity in the shoulder season has paid off.
“It’s an ongoing goal. If we as a city continues focusing on pushing those shoulder seasons, I think it is going to be beneficial to everyone,” said Picton.
McLeod echoes Picton’s comments and said she is seeing businesses get on board and joining forces.
“I think everybody is really starting to focus on those shoulder seasons and really trying to work on hosting events,” she said. “I think that is refreshing to see is everyone making those phone calls and making connections and trying to figure out how we can all work together to make one event even bigger.”