Business is booming for the town of Oliver’s wine industry. From wine tours to actually selling the stuff, Oliver has gained no small amount of renown for its wineries.
However, those who wish to come from out of town to visit the “Wine Capital of Canada” can face headaches from more than the occasional hangover.
A lack of lodging options has those looking to visit Oliver staying in other communities. Hidden Chapel Winery proprietor Deborah Wilde said although business has been booming, the situation has limited her business’s potential.
“I just know we need more accommodation in Oliver,” she said. “Often, Osoyoos hotels are full too, so (tourists) end up in Penticton, which is too far for them to drive, quite often, to come down here.”
Wilde said the area’s wine industry is key to the town’s continued economic success.
“The wine industry is Oliver,” she said. “I think the whole economy of Oliver is based on farming, and a lot of that now is vineyards, and the vineyards provide the wineries.”
To remedy this problem, Oliver town council passed a resolution to request proposals for a hotel feasibility study. The study would investigate if building a hotel would make economic sense for a developer.
“It’s something that everyone has wanted for quite some time,” said Beth Garrish, chair of the Oliver Tourism Association. “We’ve got a number of smaller motels and (bed and breakfasts), but we don’t have a lot of accommodation for visitors. I think it’s something that everybody in Oliver is in agreement — it’s something we need to have.”
Garrish pointed out that Oliver offers many different draws for tourists during the summer months, such as its wineries and eco-tourism. While the winter months see less tourists, people still need places to stay in the town for sports events like hockey tournaments or bonspiels.
Mayor Ron Hovanes said the study would not only provide useful information for town council, but could also be used to attract developers.
“It’s kind of a double-edge thing,” he said. “It’s there for a comfort level for the council and the taxpayers at large, and to use as a marketing tool as well.”
Hovanes said in the past there have been talks with developers about opening a hotel in Oliver, but these were derailed by 2008’s economic downturn.
However, he added the new provincial prison being built in the area has re-sparked interest by developers to create a hotel.
Bonnie Dancey, CEO of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, said not only does the lack of lodging create headaches for visitors, it hurts local businesses.
“So many of our visitors go to Osoyoos and Penticton for their accommodation, and then the Oliver businesses lose out,” she says.
“A tourist spends, on average, $100 a day, B.C. tourism estimates. We’re losing that revenue in this community as well.”
Dancey estimates the number of rooms in Oliver from all the motels and bed and breakfasts to be just over 60, a number she says is not enough to support the demand by tourists looking to take advantage of what Oliver has to offer.
Town council hopes to have the study completed this year.