Penticton’s tourism sector righting itself after recessionary roller-coaster ride

New figures show city rebounding from slump, but at slower pace than elsewhere in Canada

  • Jul. 14, 2012 1:00 p.m.
It's all smiles for Loco Landing owner Diana Stirling

It's all smiles for Loco Landing owner Diana Stirling

New data from Statistics Canada suggest Canada’s tourism industry is steadily recovering from the 2008 economic downturn, and similar growth has been seen in Penticton.

“We’re seeing more young families, which is great, and what we’re finding is we’re getting a lot of repeats, people are coming back again and again to Penticton, wondering what else we have this year,” said Diana Stirling, owner of Loco Landing Adventure Park.

She attributed this to reinvestment in the park, as well as efforts made by the local tourism association.

Lakeside Resort and Convention Centre general manager David Prystay said his organization has also seen increases in tourist demand following two years of stagnation.

“I guess you could say there was a recession, but not a great effect on our hotel business at all,” said Prystay.

The rebound is happening all across the country, according to Statistics Canada.

“That report is indicating that tourism spending in Canada has risen for the 11th consecutive quarter since the last quarter of 2009, and Penticton, for the most part, has been consistent with those figures,” said Jesse Campbell, CEO of Penticton and Wine Country Tourism.

However, Campbell pointed out, the growth seen nationally is happening at a quicker pace than in Penticton

“We do feel the effects more slowly than the larger urban centres, so that slower rebound is likely due to a softer international market,” said Campbell. “Our international visitation, particularly from the U.S., has not rebounded for us.”

Campbell’s figures show local accommodation revenue increased by 2.5 per cent in 2010, then jumped another four per cent in 2011.

These tourist dollars are quite important to Penticton’s economic well-being, said Erin Hanson, general manager of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce.

“Probably 20 per cent of our membership is in the tourism industry in the chamber, and it’s definitely always been a big industry here, so it’s quite, quite important,” she said.

However, both Campbell and Hanson stressed that while the area is seeing a growth in its tourism spending, these gains should be taken with a grain of salt.

“It’s been a rebound, but it’s been a slow rebound,” said Hanson. “Certainly the trend has been up, but those have been modest gains, year over year. We’ve still got a ways to go to get to pre-2009, I think.”