Penticton hotel tax funds dispersed

Rob Appelman said the Penticton Hospitality Association is planning to expand the number of local events they help with marketing efforts.

Peach Festival president Don Kendall (right) receives a cheque from PHA president Rob Appelman

Peach Festival president Don Kendall (right) receives a cheque from PHA president Rob Appelman

Rob Appelman said the Penticton Hospitality Association is planning to expand the number of local events they help with marketing efforts.

Handing over a cheque to the Penticton Peach Festival, PHA president Appelman said a rise in the amount collected through the additional hotel room tax shows his group is doing a good job of tourism marketing.

Alongside external marketing campaigns, helping local organizations like Peachfest is a key factor for the PHA.

The funding, said Peachfest president Don Kendall, will be used for marketing the iconic festival as well as helping with travel costs for the Peachfest float, which is expected to participate in 20 parades this year.

That includes places like Spokane, Leavenworth and Wenatchee, as well as larger events like the Calgary Stampede and the Seattle Seafair, where the Peachfest float was the only Canadian entry this year, earning it a special mention on television coverage for the event.

A similar donation last year helped expand the float’s travels to include the Hyack Festival in New Westminster, where it won the president’s award.

Many of these visits, Kendall pointed out, are reciprocal. A visit to Wenatchee brought a return visit from their float, along with an entourage of 40 visitors, helping expose more people to the area.

There are a number of organizations like Peachfest that received similar help last year including the dragon boat festival, the Wine Tourism Summit, TEDx Penticton, Young Stars and others.

The PHA has budgeted to spend $570,000 on marketing operations in 2015, $120,000 more than they spent last year. That’s due in part to the City of Penticton withholding transfers of the funds for nearly a year during a contract dispute that ended up in the B.C. Supreme Court.

“It was an unfortunate turn of events, but it did provide the community with a bit of a windfall and we intend to make that work,” said Tim Hodgkinson, director of operations for the PHA.

But Appelman said it’s also due to increased revenue from the HRT, using a 65 per cent increase in the tax collected between July 2013 ($68,460) and the same month in 2014 ($113,347).

That, he said, shows how effective their use of the funds has been in attracting visitors to Penticton. Even taking into account the Elder’s Gathering that took place in July, he continued, the number of room stays was up.

“If there are more people staying in the rooms, restaurants are up, winery sales are up, we are busier because we have done our job,” said Appelman.

Hodgkinson, admitted he can’t absolutely guarantee the increase is due to their marketing.

“It’s fair to say that the only thing that has significantly changed is that the PHA took control of external marketing and since then, the numbers have been going up,” said Hodgkinson. “The community needs to know that through good management, more and more is being focused to marketing the community.”

Hodgkinson said uniting the PHA’s marketing efforts with Tourism Penticton under a single body isn’t likely in the short term, though they remain open to collaboration at all levels.

“Collaboration will continue to increase, because we have put the awful, sad past behind us and we are now moving forward,” said Hodgkinson. “We have good relations now with Tourism Penticton and  the city and we will continue to work as closely as we can and in unison with everybody.”

That includes working with organizations like Apex Mountain Resort, capitalizing on the area’s new relationship with WestJet as well as community events throughout the year. Hodgkinson said the PHA wants to add to the list of events they are helping with marketing funds.

“External advertising is working, it is working very well. It is far more targeted than it has ever been,” said Hodgkinson. “Now that it is built and ticking on nicely we want to focus back to infrastructure and other events in town.”