Okanagan River Channel riders enjoying a float recently. Mark Brett/Western News Okanagan River Channel riders enjoying a float last summer. Mark Brett/Western News

Coyote Cruises looking to enhance Okanagan River Channel experience

Operated by the K’ul Group, the business wishes to secure long-term certainty with City of Penticton

Coyote Cruises is looking to solidify a “long-term certainty and operating exclusivity” with the City of Penticton through a proposed 20-year lease.

According to Mike Campol, the director of projects and partnerships for the K’ul Group (formerly the Penticton Indian Band Development Corporation), Coyote Cruises currently operates under a five-year license to use operating agreement with the City of Penticton which will expire in September 2019. K’ul Group oversees Coyote Cruises’ operations and is working to revamp the business.

“Our goal is to attract new partners. We want to be able to build a business that the city, the band and the staff can be incredibly proud of,” said Campol. “We want to do that by collaborating with the city and we’re looking to the right partnerships where (K’ul Group) can partner with other entities and businesses to bring this to the level it so deserves to be at.”

Campol said during a committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 8 that the group plans to “improve the existing infrastructure and buildings, build discoveries throughout the entire channel, continue to reveal cultural stories and build authenticity, enrich the experience, grow new markets and exceed guest expectations.”

“We also want to provide leadership training and business mentorship to youth,” said Campol. “(We also want to) strengthen partnerships, an opportunity to invest and partner with those who excel in creating youth employment and tourism excellence.”

Campol said these plans will require significant capital investment to reach fruition. Under the current licence to use agreement, he said it is difficult to attract these partnerships and to acquire the funding required to make the needed improvements.

“This is why we are asking the city to consider a 20-year exclusive lease for the K’ul Group. With that lease we will be comfortable in attracting and securing the best potential partners and subsequent investment,” said Campol.

Coun. Jake Kimberly asked how the business would plan to expand in order to increase jobs. Campol said by increasing marketing and further developing the facility, Coyote Cruises would see an increase in profit and visitors in the area which would require more staff.

“We’re also looking at potential food and beverage operations, maybe a souvenir shop and other opportunities for employment in retail and food and beverage,” said Campol.

Mayor John Vassilaki asked whether K’ul Group would partner with Penticton Tourism in order to promote the advancement of the Coyote Cruises. Campol said they would be interested in doing so and will be reaching out to the organization in the near future.

Campol said the group would be looking for an initial $100,000 investment for the first year either through a partnership or through the development corporation itself. He said they would anticipate subsequent investments each year, but not necessarily for the same amount.

“Our goal is that anything we’re doing moving forward as a development corporation, is to do things world-class. Especially with a tourism perspective because we represent the entire area with anything we create,” said Campol.

It was clarified that the group is not looking to gain more land than it is currently operating on and the group’s timeline in kickstarting this enhancement project is dependent on the current license to use agreement.

“To have this process complete before the 2019 summer season would be quite challenging. We’d be looking to have a conversation on the interim for some security on the LTU for the investment that we’re going to have to make now,” said Campol. “But we are currently in the discovery stages of engaging with a potential partner and clearly that partner would want the security of knowing that there’s long-term exclusive use for that site.”

Council voted to refer the request to staff for review and return to city council at a later date.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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