Bower takes lead of Tourism Penticton

New boss tasked to lead organization that's in the middle of dispute and wholesale change

New executive director Chris Bower (right) of Tourism Penticton with Tourism Penticton board chair Max Picton at visitor information centre this week. Bower takes over the position from Jessie Campbell

New executive director Chris Bower (right) of Tourism Penticton with Tourism Penticton board chair Max Picton at visitor information centre this week. Bower takes over the position from Jessie Campbell

Inclusion is the order of the day with Tourism Penticton’s new executive director.

Chris Bower, who takes the reins on Monday, said it is important to bring local communities together to work on tourism marketing.

“Here in the South Okanagan itself, it’s such a rich diverse area and we are very fortunate to be living here,” said Bower. “It is all important to us to work together.”

The position has been vacant since March, when Jesse Campbell resigned. Max Picton, chair of the Tourism Penticton Society, said the organization did an exhaustive search to find the right replacement.

“It was quite a process. We went through a lot of candidates and there were a lot of great people that came forward,” said Picton, who operates Barefoot Beach Resort.

“Fortunately, our number one choice ended up being the guy that said yes.

“It was unanimous around the board table that Chris was going to be the right fit.”

Bower brings a substantial history with tourism in the South Okanagan, having spent the last 15 years with the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation working on a variety of tourism functions.

“My portfolio there was tourism,” he said, adding that he came to the  South Okanagan in ‘90s and hasn’t looked back.

Bower started with the OIB in 1997 as the general manager of  Nk’Mip Campground and RV Park. After turning it into a successful year-round RV park, Bower became chairman of the NK’MIP Resort Association and in 2011, became business development officer for the Southern Region of the Osoyoos Reserve, responsible for development of NK’MIP Resort.

“I’m honoured to be able to take the knowledge I’ve gained over the years in tourism and use it for the benefit of this community,” said Chris Bower. “With Penticton being the gateway to the South Okanagan there are endless opportunities.”

Diana Stirling, owner of Loco Landing amusement park and vice-chair of Tourism Penticton, said choosing Bower was about more than finding someone to run a fantastic marketing campaign.

“We were incredibly strategic about who we wanted in this role as well in terms of not just being a strong marketer but having the strength of business development as well,” said Stirling.

“We are taking a very bold step forward from a Tourism Penticton perspective in that regard.”

Bower has also served on the board of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association for seven years, and holds a masters in business administration, specializing in leadership, from Royal Roads University.

“We were impressed by Chris’s depth of knowledge in the field of tourism especially as it relates to business development,” said Picton in a press release.

“When recruiting for this role we were looking for a person that could bring innovative business ideas to our tourism industry, someone who could bring all sectors together and create new opportunities for all of our stakeholders to benefit.”

According to Bower, the economic development focus was one of the factors that drew him to the job.

“Tourism is a big economic driver to Penticton,” said Bower. “I didn’t come here just to do a marketing campaign.

“We are looking at building something that is going to last for generations.”

A less attractive part of the job might be becoming involved in the ongoing dispute over tourism funding in Penticton. Again, Bower’s answer is working together.

“Everybody is looking out for the best interests of Penticton and if we work together, we are going to be able to do that,” said Bower.

Picton said it is time to start building bridges among all those involved in tourism.

“I think tourism in general in this region has been fragmented.  I think we are in a position to start moving past that and building relationships, unifying and strengthening the voice of Penticton’s tourism sector,” said Picton.