WestJet prepares for landing in Penticton

City of Penticton plans to turn handling of WestJet deal over to Tourism Penticton.

One of three billboards currently in place locally announcing the start of the WestJet direct flight service between Penticton and Calgary which is scheduled to begin Oct. 26.

One of three billboards currently in place locally announcing the start of the WestJet direct flight service between Penticton and Calgary which is scheduled to begin Oct. 26.

WestJet will be landing it’s first plane in Penticton in a little over a week, and the city said the final details of the deal are falling into place.

The city announced today their intention to enter into a partnership agreement with Tourism Penticton for that group to be the city’s representative in the WestJet deal, which involves a $100,000 marketing agreement with WestJet, and is still not concluded. Under the partnering agreement,  the city will supply financial support of up to $375,000.00 for Tourism Penticton’s air service enhancement programs over a three-year period.

“Tourism Penticton will assist the city with its economic development program and services by developing programs to enhance air services through the Penticton Regional Airport,” said Colleen Pennington, the city’s economic development officer.

She said there are three factors that make up the intent of the agreement. Tourism Penticton and economic development have already been working together for some time with both WestJet and Air Canada to try and get eastern flights.

Tourism Penticton has already been involved with Air Canada in promotions, and there are opportunities to do more, as well as potential marketing programs to increase the use of the Penticton Airport.

“So we bundled all that up into a three-year partnering agreement,” said Pennington. “Tourism will work to conclude the contract amongst other programs. That will be one thing I hope they accomplish rather quickly, but it does become a tourism responsibility to figure out how to do that.”

However, none of that is going to interfere with the first flight from Calgary, which lands at Penticton airport on Oct. 26. Tourism Penticton is working on plans for a landing party right now, according to their general manager, Chris Bower.

“We are going to be having a special welcoming ceremony for the first people arriving here in Penticton,” said Bower. He expects dignitaries from both sides to be there, including Mayor Garry Litke and Chief Jonathan Kruger along with members of the Calgary media and a group of travellers who are part of a promotion sponsored by Tinhorn Creek winery.

“A lot of them are going to be regular passengers and they are going to be quite surprised coming in,” said Bower, explaining that the plan is to wine and dine the guests when they arrive.

But Bower added this will just be the beginning.

“We are going to have other events going on to continue to promote this air access. It’s not just the one day and then it is finished. We are putting  together a plan right now how we can work with the different communities in the South Okanagan, so they have their opportunity, because this is a major gateway,” said Bower.

Pennington noted that some advertising for the WestJet flight is already going on in Penticton, designed to attract the attention of Calgarians already visiting the area. But there has been some confusion, she said, over why one of the billboards sports a City of Penticton logo and the other doesn’t. It all comes down to who is paying for the billboard.

“WestJet chose to put the city of Penticton on their billboard when they wanted to promote the flight. The other creative that went up, it will be paid for by Tourism Penticton, so it doesn’t make sense for the city to have a logo on that,” said Pennington. “I was happy to see WestJet promoting  the City of Penticton, it is very kind of them. But that is why there is the difference between the two.”