If you had to guess, how much money would you say tourism brings to Summerland every year? A couple of million dollars? Maybe $10 or $15 million? That sounds like a large amount of money already, doesn’t it?
Would you be shocked if I told you it’s actually just over $50 million? And 500 direct and indirect jobs?
Where does that staggering figure come from? It is provided by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, the branch of the Ministry of Tourism that supports our region.
They estimate that Summerland receives three per cent of the annual $1.7 billion of tourism income in our region.
We can question those numbers or imagine that it’s lower or higher. The point, though, is that tourism is a juggernaut in our local economy and cannot be ignored.
Tourism is a key area for the Chamber of Commerce work in our community. In the next few columns I will address the other key areas for the Chamber; member services/support and business attraction/ retention. Since summer and visitors have arrived, however, tourism is a great place to start.
For the past two years TOTA has been working on a regional tourism strategy that will take our region through the next decade. They recognize that our region, and particularly the South Okanagan, is very busy with tourism for the summer months when visitors come for our peaches and beaches. That’s currently the case for Summerland too.
TOTA’s goal with the 10-year strategy is to turn that short season into a year round season, by targeting tourists who want what we can provide and by helping our tourism businesses grow to provide what is necessary.
TOTA has done extensive research to determine what type of traveller comes to our region to visit and have narrowed this to three types of visitors: free spirits who are adventure seekers, authentic experiencers who enjoy parks and nature and cultural explorers who enjoy history and culture.
If you visit TOTA’s website at totabc.org and scroll down their main page, you will find the regional strategy section.
It’s well worth the read to understand these types of travelers and what they are looking for when they visit Summerland.
The Summerland Chamber has a number of members whose businesses depend on these visitors; hotels and bed and breakfasts, cafés and restaurants, the art gallery and museum, fruit stands, the Kettle Valley Steam Railway, shops and boutiques, etc. all come to mind.
And while it’s TOTA’s role to attract people to the Thompson Okanagan, it’s our role in Summerland to distinguish and position our community in a way that makes us attractive to visitors year round.
That will directly benefit our tourism businesses and in turn, our whole community.
The Summerland Chamber is fully in support of TOTA’s 10-year strategy and is working with the District of Summerland and our tourism businesses to identify our strengths and clarify our vision. We want to present a unified picture to visitors that will attract them to our town and expand our tourism season.
One of the important things about visitors is that they often turn into residents.
A common story among newcomers to Summerland is that they visited for a few days and decided to make a permanent move here.
Hopefully some have moved their businesses here as well or decided to open new businesses.
We always appreciate your feedback.
Please contact me at email@example.com or Christine Petkau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arlene Fenrich is President of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and the owner of Edgy Petals. All of the members of The Board of Directors serve as volunteers.