We are now six weeks into the declaration of the global pandemic, the province’s state of emergency, and drastic changes in the tourism industry and our everyday lives. As part of our response plan, Tourism Kelowna has temporarily paused destination marketing campaigns in external markets and re-aligned our entire organization to focus on local, now helping tourism-related businesses maintain profile and connect with consumers.
I understand how this change in direction may seem at odds with our organization’s mandate to generate overnight visitation and increase the quality of life for residents. And truly, only unprecedented circumstances would cause us to pause and shift our focus.
We speak with tourism stakeholders every single day. Your stories are both heartbreaking and inspirational. We understand these are dire financial times for many of you, especially smaller, owner-operated businesses. We know you are anxious to re-open and that you are looking for immediate support.
We also know that at this time, inviting visitors to Kelowna for non-essential travel would contravene provincial public health guidelines, the same guidelines being supported and promoted by the City of Kelowna. We would lose the trust and social license of local residents if we promoted travel to our destination before it is deemed safe to do so or without the majority of businesses opened and operational.
Like you, we are closely monitoring news of potential phased-in easing of restrictions this summer and into fall. Once the recommendations against non-essential travel are eased, we will reactivate out-of-market advertising, adding markets as permitted by provincial public health leaders. We will target regionally and within our province first then broaden to other parts of Canada as consumer confidence slowly returns. We know international travel will take several months to return.
Destination British Columbia, our provincial marketing organization, has repeatedly noted that our fastest road to recovery is to contain the virus. The more we do today, the faster we can explore our province again and welcome travellers back to Kelowna. As a reminder, you are invited to view our COVID-19 response plan. This plan will be updated as more details are confirmed.
One final note: in last week’s online tourism town hall, participants noted that navigating the many government relief programs is a top challenge they are facing. Next week, a provincial Tourism Resiliency Network Program will roll out. In our region, this is being led by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA). This valuable service will help businesses with one-on-one, short- and long-term support. You can find out more on this website and by registering for a webinar on Monday, April 27 at 2 p.m., to learn about the program and how to register. We thank TOTA for helping industry with this valuable service.
Stay safe. Be well.
President & CEO
If you have questions or updates about your businesses, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A list of important resources is available on Tourism Kelowna’s COVID-19 web page and you can sign up for our Industry News Centre bulletins.