Penticton tourism aims to boost revenue

New CEO says Penticton must remain competitive with resort communities like Osoyoos

With the addition of a $324,080 contract from the City of Penticton and other revenue added to the additional hotel room tax, the new Penticton and Wine Country Tourism society is controlling a budget of nearly a million dollars.

Using a conservative estimate of $400,000 for the AHRT ($420,000 was collected last year) and another $124,000 from other sources, the group’s projected budget for 2012 is $848,000. A total of $461,000 is earmarked for tourism marketing, with another $386,500 for payroll and general expenses, including staffing and operation of the Visitors’ Centre.

But that may not be enough for the society’s new CEO, Jessie Campbell, who presented the 2012-15 business plan to city council on Monday, just a week after council approved awarding the contracts for the visitor centre and tourism marketing to the new group.

Generating more revenue is going to be a focus of the society, according to Campbell, with the aim being to make Penticton more competitive against communities like Osoyoos. As a resort community, Osoyoos receives a grant from the provincial government matching the AHRT collected in the community.

“They do have a larger budget, substantially so. We are competitive and we have seen in our research a narrowing of the gap, catching up to destinations like Kelowna as being seen as a wine tourism destination,” said Campbell. “However, Osoyoos is gaining on our heels as well because of some of the work they have been able to do, they do have a significant budget. That is one of the main reasons that the objective of this organization is revenue generation.”

One possible source of revenue mentioned in the marketing plan is the addition of a destination marketing fee, an additional one per cent levy that would be collected by all participating tourism businesses.

Unlike the AHRT, Mayor Dan Ashton explains, this would be a voluntary levy, aimed at getting other businesses that benefit from tourism, like wineries, restaurants and retail, to contribute financially to Penticton and Wine Country’s tourism budget. It’s a system, he said, that is already being used in other communities, like Vancouver.

“It’s a broad spectrum trying to bring additional revenue to the committee for targeted marketing,” Ashton said, using the Naramata Bench as an example. “A lot of the bench is outside of the City of Penticton and they garner a terrific amount of traffic from people staying in Penticton.”

If a destination marketing fee is developed in Penticton, Ashton added, it would be separate from the city, and administered directly by the tourism society.

Along with their budget, Penticton and Wine Country Tourism is also going to benefit from a $7,500 provincial grant. Among the eligible expenditures for the grant are upgrades for the visitor centre, which Campbell says is a priority.

“Ensuring a consistently excellent customer service experience is vital,” says Campbell. “Since the visitor centre is often the first impression for our visitors, it’s important we’re always putting our best foot forward, whether that means ensuring our staff have the best training or ensuring our centre’s esthetic is more current and welcoming.”

Other eligible expenses for the grant include materials, supplies and services that assist in reaching provincial tourism goals.