August is the month when the Okanagan Valley’s roads, beaches and lakes teem with visitors making the most of precious vacation time.
Alberta licence plates seem to match B.C. plates one for one. Motor homes, RVs, fifth wheels juggle for space along the highway. Massive trucks haul sleek boats of every description toward the water—any water.
The early worry for local resorts, motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts and camping grounds this year was that the flooding in Alberta would keep those vacationers away. But is looks like resilient Albertans have recovered enough to take a richly deserved road trip for some rest and relaxation in the Okanagan.
“There are only a few (hoteliers) who are expressing unease, which is linked with the Calgary market,” said Tourism Kelowna’s Catherine Frechette. “Overwhelmingly, the confidence is good for August.”
In July Tourism Kelowna conducted an informal poll with hoteliers to determine the impact the Alberta floods would have on local tourism.
Frechette said the results showed the majority of hotel, bed and breakfast and campground owners saw increased business in July.
That leaves the local tourism market feeling optimistic about the overall summer season.
“What we’ve seen over the last few years has been small increases, year over year, building back up from the decline that we saw in 2009 from the economic downturn.
“The increases have been nominal, so we’re not quite up to the height of 2008 just yet, but we’re headed in the right direction,” she said.
Most Okanagan Valley visitors traditionally come from B.C. and Alberta. While this is still the case, the type of vacation they’re opting to take has evolved.
Many tourists are choosing quick, spur-of-the-moment getaways as opposed to multi-week holidays.
Daily non-stop flights to and from Toronto have also brought more Ontario residents to the Okanagan Valley.
Tourism Kelowna aggressively promotes the entire region, including Lake Country, in popular markets. “We’ll do radio campaigns on Vancouver stations or (other) stations where we know there’s a high percentage of that market that travels to Kelowna in the summer.”
They also go after specific travellers in niche markets, with the aim of bringing golfers, wine lovers and, most recently, adventure seekers to our backyard.
Recently Bob Weeks profiled Okanagan area golf courses for a TSN feature.
“We do very highly targeted campaigns because we know that those are deciding factors for people,” Frechette said.
Perhaps the most successful effort came on July 15. Thats when more than three million sets of eyes witnessed what the Okanagan has to offer as it was the setting for the inaugural episode of The Amazing Race Canada.
The show set a ratings record and was the most watched Canadian entertainment program since the Corner Gas finale in 2009.