This has been a year of challenges for the new Travel Penticton to deal with, and 2018 will be more of the same, according to the budget plan they laid out for council.
One of the biggest challenges in 2017 was the flooding and smoke from fires around the province. That suppressed tourism numbers in July, but despite that, revenue from the additional hotel room tax is up by seven per cent according to Thom Tischik, the organization’s executive director.
The additional hotel room tax is forecast at $590,000 in their 2018 budget, which, along with the City of Penticton’s $300,000 contribution, makes up the majority of their $1,096,500 budget.
On the expense side, the organization is targeting about $377,050 to marketing initiatives, while $415,252 goes to paying staff and visitor centre operations.
“We were really trying this year to mitigate the issue with the high water and the smoke going on,” said Tishick. “We are really trying this year to carve our own niche, to make sure we are getting our identity out there and being as unique as possible in the marketplace.”
The visitor centre has been another challenge that is going to be resolved in 2018. After being relocated to make way for the Cascade Casino building, Travel Penticton spent the 2017 tourist season split between two locations, with the visitor centre located in portables in the corner of the South Okanagan Events Centre parking lot.
In 2018, Tischik says they will be taking over the “new-old” location of the visitor centre at 888 Westminster Ave. Some modifications are needed to bring the building up to current code, but he expects they will be able to make the move in February.
Not only is it a good location and an attractive building, but Tishick said it will help make Travel Penticton a better team.
“Right now we are dislocated between two offices and kind of feeling temporary. We will be able to work stronger as a team, we will also be able to economize so we can cut down our wage costs for the visitor centre,” said Tishick.
Travel Penticton is also planning a second location, one that is a bit more mobile, in the form of a 10×10 pop-up tent.
“Nothing that is onerous cost wise but certainly is effective to meet our visitors,” said Tischik, explaining that they are looking at setting it near The Peach, as well as taking it to events.
Tischik stressed the importance of having a good presentation for visitors, noting that communities on either side of Penticton have “really nice visitor centre structures.” That includes, he said, Osoyoos and the new $2.8 million centre Kelowna is building.
“Even Summerland has a great visitor centre, right in the old schoolhouse,” said Tishick. “Coming into the city is so important for this community to have a really great looking visitor centre for our guests.”
Barb Haynes, Travel Penticton chair, said the process of bringing Tourism Penticton and the Penticton Hospitality Association together was winding down.
Tourism Penticton, she said has been officially dissolved and a judge ruled in favour of the PHA in an outstanding civil suit, clearing the way for that organization to dissolve as well.
“We’ve gone through a process of new staffing, rebranding for the organization and rebuilding the stakeholder relationships,” said Haynes, adding that there is still more to do to build a unified voice for external tourism marketing and that they are budgeting for extra staff in 2018.
“We are stretched as far as we can be stretched at the moment,” said Haynes, explaining there is padding in the staff budget to increase the staff seasonally.
“This summer, a lot of our staff was working six days a week for months on end.”