Cyclists could get tourism on a roll

As Penticton’s tourism officials and political leaders are looking for ways to attract events in the tourism industry’s shoulder season, a potential answer to their prayers may have come rolling through town.

As Penticton’s tourism officials and political leaders are looking for ways to attract events in the tourism industry’s shoulder season, a potential answer to their prayers may have come rolling through town.

The Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx made its inaugural debut in Penticton last weekend, attracting more than 2,000 cyclists to the South Okanagan. Besides filling the roads on the 160-kilometre course that took them through Penticton, Naramata, Summerland, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Kaleden, the riders also filled the city’s hotels, shops and restaurants.

The ride comes on the heels of a proposal from Penticton and Wine Country Tourism to increase the hotel tax to three per cent and impose a new across-the-board business licence levy. The revenue from the proposed fee increases would be earmarked to attract meetings, conventions, sporting events and new festivals to the city during the slower times between September and June.

It’s a description that perfectly fits the growing trend of cycling tourism.

A recent study by Alberta Economic Development found that the majority of those involved in cycling tourism are professional white-collar workers with annual incomes of more than $60,000 and a high amount of disposable income.

And Sunday’s Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx has already given Penticton a head start on reaching its destination. The rave reviews are pouring in from the cyclists who were captivated by the breathtaking scenery of the South Okanagan. Plans are already in the works to bring in even more riders for another event next year.

Penticton council needs to view the city’s cycling network as an opportunity and not a nuisance to motorists. And Penticton Tourism should use the increased exposure among the cycling community to work to bring in more cycling tours in the spring and fall. It could be just the answer to get the city’s economy on a roll.

— Penticton Western News