Osoyoos tourism group puts boss on permanent vacation

Destination Osoyoos last week dismissed its executive director over her apparent lack of marketing experience

Jo Knight (right) was dismissed last week from her role as executive director of Destination Osoyoos. The board of the tourism group is apparently seeking someone with more marketing experience.

Jo Knight (right) was dismissed last week from her role as executive director of Destination Osoyoos. The board of the tourism group is apparently seeking someone with more marketing experience.

Canada’s warmest welcome got a bit frosty last week when the agency responsible for administering the Osoyoos area’s tourism marketing efforts put its executive director on ice.

Jo Knight was dismissed March 28 by the board of Destination Osoyoos, the same day as the group’s annual general meeting for which she failed to produce a set of financial statements.

Board chairman Don Brogan said the timing was simply an “unfortunate coincidence,” and the decision to part ways with Knight that day had actually been made two weeks earlier.

“There was no indication or concerns as far as integrity or honesty. There’s been no misappropriation of funds or anything along those lines,” Brogan said.

“It’s purely that we are a marketing organization for our community and region, and we need to have top marketing people working for us. Jo has amazing talents, but external marketing was not one of them.”

Brogan allowed, though, that he was “a little taken aback” when Knight told the meeting financial statements were not available because the board had not yet signed off on the documents.

Knight, who was appointed to the position in February 2010, couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

According to unaudited financial statements released this week, Destination Osoyoos went $30,000 over budget last year with expenses of $338,000. Brogan said the overage resulted when the B.C. government began charging rent for the group’s visitors’ centre office shortly after its budget was finalized. Destination Osoyoos has since moved to a cheaper space downtown.

About $200,000 of the organization’s revenue was derived from a local hotel room tax earmarked specifically for marketing, Brogan explained, while the Town of Osoyoos, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and Nk’Mip Resort Association contributed just over $100,000 for administrative expenses.

Brogan said the agency has transformed from an organization that a few years ago handled marketing, economic development and visitors’ centre operations for the town to one that’s now focused solely on marketing, and whoever’s hired to replace Knight will have to be an expert in that field. In the meantime, Destination Osoyoos will move forward with single, paid staff member while the board plans its next steps.

“We know that we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves as a board and get a little more involved to help through this transition, that’s a given,” said Brogan, who’s also the general manager of the Walnut Beach Resort.

Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells said the agency has already produced this year’s visitors’ guide and is working on marketing materials for next year, so he’s not concerned with the temporary vacancy while the board searches for an executive director.

“As far as on the surface and what you see, it’s certainly business as usual,” Wells said. “We’re quite comfortable with the decisions of the board.”

Wells said he was pleased with Knight’s work “to what the town’s requirements were,” but he understands the board is “taking the organization in a different direction.”