Entrepreneur grasps new cycling tourism opportunity

“The South Okanagan has a variety of routes that simply can’t be touched by other locations:” Gord Hotchkiss

The South Okanagan is now home to one of the first cycling “re- sort” offerings in North America.

Giro Okanagan, founded by Kelowna digital marketing entrepreneur Gord Hotchkiss, is launching a new venture that combines the world-class cycling offered by the region intended to showcase the “slow tourism” movement.

Cycling tourism is big business, with billions being spent annually for cycling vacations worldwide.

Most of these vacations are “point- to-point” type tours offered by companies such as Backcountry, Trek Vacations and Butterfield and Robinson.

But recently, the  concept of cycling destination resorts has grown in popularity in locations such as Italy, France and Spain.

These resorts offer a wide variety of route options with the convenience of staying in one location. This allows guests to gain a greater appreciation for the area and also gives them more flexibility in planning a cycling holiday.

Giro Okanagan is one of the first cycling destination resort offer- ings in North America.

While Hotchkiss lives in Kelowna, it was clear in the earliest planning stages that Penticton was a better choice as a cycling vacation hub.

“The South Okanagan has a variety of routes that simply can’t be touched by other locations,” Hotchkiss said.

“It sounds cliché to say it’s ‘world class’ but it is. In one week, a guest can cycle every day, through distinctly different terrains and environments—from desert to alpine high country to lush vineyards.”

The province has recently recognized the importance of cycling in the South Okanagan by making it the pilot location for the Cycling Tourism and Signage Marketing Program.

“We have some exceptional cycling routes. If you can bring those two things together into a seamless offering, you can offer a remarkable vacation. That’s our goal,”  Hotchkiss said.

Giro Okanagan will offer vacation packages starting this fall and will run through a full sea- son in 2016 from April through October, with a slow down during the summer, he said.

But cycling won’t be  the only thing that the South Okanagan offers.

“We planned this from the beginning to be a slow tourism offering,” Hotchkiss said. “And this region is a natural fit for slow tourism.”

Slow Tourism is a movement that is also taking root in Europe. Its purpose is to offer authentic, intimate, connected experiences that go beyond the typical vacation in the South Okanagan.

For example, Giro Okanagan hosts farm-to-table dinners working with an extensive network of tourism partners—artisans, winemakers and chefs.

Hotchkiss was co-founder of Enquiro in Kelowna, which grew to be a digital marketing force in North America.

He sold Enquiro   to Yellow Page Media in  2010.

While Giro Okanagan is a change in direction for Hotchkiss, he is very passionate about it.

“I’ve always loved cycling. And it’s every cyclists dream to try to find a way to turn it into a full-time job. This is a way for me to do that.”