New tourism board a compromise solution

Penticton city councillor John Vassilaki says tourism contract is being awarded arbitrarily.

While the new tourism board is being touted as receiving broad support from the tourism community, some Penticton councillors are saying that the city was forced to accept it as a compromise.

“Here I come to a place where I am not going to make people happy,” said Coun. John Vassilaki as he moved that council re-ratify the decision to accept the new governance structure made public last week.

The contract to handle Penticton’s tourism marketing and visitor services will be awarded to a new group, Penticton and Wine Country Tourism. It will be governed by an 11-member board of directors, with six members already appointed by the Penticton Hospitality Association who are the major backers of the proposal. The other five directors represent the broader tourism community, including a representative from the city. All staff currently working in tourism marketing and the visitor centre will be rolled into the new entity, with current marketing manager Jessie Campbell being promoted to CEO of the new tourism committee to lead the creation of the new organization.

Nearly 75 tourism operators attended two meetings Friday where the new governance model was presented and, according to Campbell, received broad support. Vassilaki, however, has concerns about the makeup of the board, and how the proposal came about. He has faith that Campbell will be able to handle the position as CEO for the new tourism committee, but feels the board of directors may be lopsided.

“Her destiny is controlled by the six members of the PHA,” said Vassilaki. A previous deal with the Penticton Business Development Group collapsed last month after the PHA voted against allowing the new group to handle the $425,000 fund generated by the additional hotel room tax. The PHA expressed concerns that they were not consulted about the PBDG deal, but Vassilaki said they knew since late last summer the process was going forward and had not voiced any concerns during the proposal process or put forward a proposal themselves.

“Once the city chose the appropriate group, all hell broke loose,” said Vassilaki. “They held city council hostage for the two per cent room tax. The PHA began to derail what city council had put together with the PBDG.”

Vassilaki complained that because of the pressure from the PHA, the contract is being awarded arbitrarily, when all others who get contracts from the city all go through the regular process.

“This group, along with others, made city council look like fools by giving us an ultimatum, either their way or the highway,” he said.

While other councillors supported some of Vassilaki’s comments, they said the 11th hour proposal was the best way forward for the city, with the major tourist season coming up fast.

“We have to move it forward, any further delay would have meant a loss for all of us,” said Coun. Judy Sentes.

For the first year, the other five directors will be appointed, by Campbell and the six members already appointed by the PHA, working through expressions of interest from targeted tourism sectors.

“Next year will be a full election for all 10 positions, with the exception of the city representative,” she said, adding it will probably be a couple of weeks before they can announce the full board.

Mayor Dan Ashton said this was a challenging decision for council, though he is happy to see a resolution that was driven by the city’s tourism community.

“Tourism comes first in the city of Penticton. We have to pull together. Is this the perfect scenario? Time is going to tell,” he said, adding that it is necessary to get a strong tourism marketing program back in place in the face of strong competition for tourist dollars.

“There is an awful lot of places in the world today where tourists can go. Peaches and beaches don’t cut it anymore in Penticton,” said Ashton. “For all those years, Penticton was the jewel of the Okanagan for people to come, we’ve let it slip by.”

Just Posted

There was high voter turnout for the first of three advance voting days for the Penticton city by-election.
Penticton city by-election general voting day is today, June 19

737 voters on June 9 in comparison to 2018 general election, which had 1,001 on first day

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 Penticton-area men charged with Kamloops brothers’ double homicide

Brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May in Naramata

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

JAK's Liquor Store in Penticton will be donating 10 per cent of its sales on Saturday, June 19, to the Penticton Salvation Army Food Bank. (Photo from
Stock up your liquor cabinet and support the Penticton food bank

Jak’s beer and wine store is donating a portion of sales to local food banks Saturday

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
‘Springsteen on Broadway’ clears way for AstraZeneca recipients to attend show

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Most Read