Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly greets attendees at a luncheon hosted by the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce on May 23. She discussed tourism and economic growth. (Robin Grant/Penticton Western News)

Federal tourism minister speaks in Penticton

Tourism Minister Melanie Joly said $58.5 million plan will develop Okanagan as a tourism destination

Christa-Lee McWatters with ENCORE Vineyards said she is looking forward to how the recently announced federal tourism strategy could potentially boost tourism during the non-peak seasons in the Okanagan.

McWatters was one of roughly 100 people attending the luncheon featuring the Tourism Minister Melanie Joly organized by the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

READ MORE: Parks Canada releases public consultation results on proposed park in South Okanagan-Similkameen

She said the event is important because people don’t realize how important tourism is to the Okanagan’s local economy.

“It is bringing it to the forefront for people to understand the economic benefit that tourism does drive to our region as a whole to the Okanagan but particularly the South Okanagan and that we are one of the largest employers if you look at us as an industry,” she said.

McWatters also said she wants to see how the labour and accommodation shortages in the Okanagan will be addressed.

The recently unveiled federal tourism strategy, called Creating Middle Class Jobs: A Federal Tourism Growth Strategy, aims to boost international tourism to Canada during non-peak seasons by more than a million people, according to Joly, who spoke at the Penticton Trade and Commerce Centre on May 23.

The strategy includes $58.5 million over two years to help communities create or improve tourism facilities and experiences.

“The idea is support the great tourism workers that are in Penticton and the Okanagan region,” she said.

READ MORE: Federal tourism minister announces new national strategy in Armstrong

READ MORE: Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

“We want to boost tourism year long, so not only in summer seasons but also throughout the year, and not only in our three big cities, which are Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” Joly said. “We want to make sure that Canadians and international visitors get to see these hidden gems that we have all across the country and that actually support our great local economy.”

The new tourism measures are aimed at helping tourism revenues grow by 25 per centto $128 billion by 2025.

The Okanagan region has recently experienced labour shortages and Joly said there are measures in the 2019 budget that help seniors, students and international visas to address these shortages. Also eligible for funding is LGBTQ+ tourism, Joly said.

She added the Okanagan could also benefit from the government’s new $5-million marketing strategy aimed at getting Canadians out to visit the country.

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Robin Grant
Reporter, Penticton Western News
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