A slow summer season has local tourism officials hoping 2012 will be a case of better late than never.
“July and, from what we are anecdotally reporting, August were significantly down,” said CEO Jessie Campbell of Penticton and Wine Country Tourism. “For example the room occupancy rate for July was down almost 10 per cent in Penticton.
“But the one thing we are seeing so far, and this again is anecdotally, is stronger weather through the fall, therefore potentially extending the season into September and October. So maybe more people are planning to travel outside of July and August, but that obviously remains to be seen.”
Penticton is not alone is experiencing a decline in the tourism market, according to Campbell this is a provincewide problem.
“It’s very difficult to say why,” she said. “Overall, I think it can largely be contributed to factors such as the dollar and that overall the tourism industry has just been softer in 2012.”
Various organizations which track the tourism numbers are currently working together to try and determine the exact cause, according to the CEO.
One known factor is the reduced number of visitors from the United States, especially Washington state, which has financially hurt the Okanagan Valley in particular.
The number of Americans stopping by the visitors centre is down about 18 per cent over the same period in 2011.
However, there was also good news this year. In the first two quarters numbers were up, particularly in June when room revenue stats here showed a nine per cent jump over the same month the previous year.
“It was definitely a softer year but our Canadian market, particularly our B.C. market, remained our strongest and Alberta was particularly good in July and August,” said Campbell. “There’s always many factors that drive whether or not families, couples and friends decide to make a trip, and at this stage the region is really looking for those answers.”
She added there are even those who feel more people are staying home for those two weeks of holidays to do renovations.
Work is also well underway at the Penticton tourism office to attract some of the shoulder season travellers to this region.
“One initiative we’re working on right now is called Let’s Drive Fall Bookings, because we have some great events coming up,” said Campbell. “This way we’re making sure that we’re ahead of the curve and keeping Penticton and travel to the Okanagan top of the mind.”
Part of that process involves putting together special packages for pre-qualified consumers in B.C., Alberta and Washington.
The CEO believes the Peach City is still an excellent starting and/or base destination for visitors coming to the Okanagan to enjoy the Wine Country experience.
Adding in proposed developments like the planned yurt campsite development near the airport will also boost the attractiveness.
There is also the prospect of getting another air carrier to re-instate the direct-flight service between Penticton and one of the major Alberta cities.
“And wouldn’t that be a game changer?” said Campbell. “That service as part of the tourism industry and tourism as the bigger economic picture for Penticton; those would all be big wins that would change the face of the city economically.”