The “unofficial” start of events season in the Okanagan seems to be extending earlier into the spring, and later into the fall each year, with events – large and small – popping up throughout the winter.

As the Honourable Mélanie Joly, federal Minister of Tourism, stated in her recent tour to several interior communities, the tourist economy has the potential to be a massive economic driver in Canada; events and product development play a big role in the 1.8 million tourism-related jobs in the sector. And, 21.1 million visitors are looking for things to do.

Just before her visit, Minister Joly announced the creation of the Canadian Experiences Fund. Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) received $11 million over two years to deliver the CEF in western Canada. As noted in CEF information, “the fund invests in the types of products and experiences that cater to Canada’s strengths, while also growing tourism beyond major cities and the summer season.”

Seems like a win-win for smaller towns and regions to develop new products…and that includes events. Product development – events and experiences – need to fall into these categories to be considered for funding:

  • Expand winter and shoulder-season by funding projects like onsite experiences development, tours, excursions, special events and tourism facilities
  • Grow tourism in rural and remote communities by investing in projects such as destination development planning, adventure, eco- and agri-tourism, local product development, or rural and remote tourism facilities
  • Increase Indigenous tourism by investing in such projects as market readiness, onsite experiences development, developing a line of consumer products, tours, festivals and special events
  • Promote LGBTQ2+ communities, by supporting train the trainer programs, projects such as attractions, special events and festivals as well as market readiness
  • Boost culinary and farm-to-table experiences, by funding projects in areas including culinary tourism trails, farmers markets, and onsite experiences development in various locations

Our region is ripe with opportunities based on this list. On top of the potential economic impact and tax revenues that visitors to Penticton and the South Okanagan bring to our communities, there is amazing potential to bring different entities together to create something new, engage community members in event planning, employment, and volunteering.

There are challenges in the tourism sector, but if we look at the big picture and the many benefits tourism brings to the region, it’s worth bringing tourism associations, business groups, chambers of commerce, festival planners, and government together to keep the economic momentum moving forward in a positive and sustainable direction. Time to start planning.

This article first appeared in the Business Examiner, and is provided courtesy of the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce.

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