Tourism Kelowna has done a fine job of selling this city to visitors and did a good job of selling itself to city council on Monday.
CEO Nancy Cameron's PowerPoint presentation built up the organization's accomplishments over 27 pages to the climax: an estimated $279 million in visitor spending - a huge economic impact during the five-year period ending in 2011.
The results of the study, presented as part of Tourism Kelowna's 2013 report to council, estimated Kelowna had 1.5 million visitors, a 27 per cent increase from 1.2 million the previous five years. The study estimated more than 7,000 people were directly employed in the industry, a
5.8 per cent increase. And they were paid
$176 million, up 40 per cent. The gross domestic product for tourism was up 50 per cent to $335 million and economic output was $653 million, up 69 per cent.
Of interest to council, tourism produced $100 million in tax revenues for various levels of government. The city contributes only 13 per cent of Tourism Kelowna's $2.6-million budget with the majority or 45 per cent coming from the Kelowna hotel room tax and West Kelowna's destination marketing fee from several of its
hotels. Another 27 per cent comes from
"It is an exciting time for tourism in Kelowna, in the Valley and in the province in general," Tourism Kelowna chairman Brad Sieben told councillors.
"Tourism in B.C. is now viewed through a different lens than it ever has before. Tourism is really seen as a key economic driver and an industry that is absolutely critical to the overall health of the B.C. economy."
Cameron added Tourism Kelowna is looking forward to possibly moving into a new visitor information centre in a proposed public amenity building in City Park - "the busiest location for our tourists." A city planning document is to be completed by next summer following up to seven years of discussions by Tourism Kelowna on a new location.
Tourism Kelowna acted as a facilitator at recent meetings of Central Okanagan municipalities with the provincial Ministry of Transportation about its review of the "confusing" tourism road signage program. The objective is to encourage consistency and clarity on the rules for businesses and policy development for municipalities, she noted.
Tourism Kelowna works with more than 300 tourism businesses as well as the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA), Destination B.C. and Canadian Tourism Commission. It also has a new agreement with Lake Country as that community's destination marketing organization.
Responding to a question from Coun. Mohini Singh, Cameron said 93 per cent of visitors in 2011 were Canadians with the number of U.S. visitors continuing to drop to 4.8 per cent. It is now estimated at about 4.1 per cent.
In 2011, 49 per cent of visitors came for leisure activities, 22.5 per cent for business, 8.4 per cent for meetings and conventions and 7.1 per cent for sports events.
Staff worked for a year to bring the Wine Country Half-Marathon to Kelowna, spending $15,000 on the campaign, including bringing the event owner from Los Angeles twice.
As well, 14 golf courses worked together to market Kelowna as one of Canada's top golf destinations, she said. The number of non-resident rounds doubled through a central reservations system.
Tourism Kelowna's website views increased from one million in 2011 to 1.5 million in 2012.