Strategy targets regional tourism

Plan developed to attract more visitors to the Thompson-Okanagan

Tourism leaders throughout the Thompson-Okanagan now have a new regional strategy to attract more travellers from around the world.

The plan aims to increase the region’s $1.73-billion annual tourism industry by five per cent over the next decade, and to boost the number of travellers who visit – especially in the slower spring and fall seasons.

“While close to 3.5 million travellers visit the region every year and tourism is a major economic engine, it faces the challenges of extreme summer-heavy seasonality, a lack of themed storytelling in its marketing, and increasing worldwide competition,” said Glenn Mandziuk, chief executive officer of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.

Mandziuk believes the strategy will be effective because TOTA has included insight from the Canadian Tourism Commission’s Explorer Quotient program.

The program identifies people as belonging to one of nine traveller types based on their values and travel preferences.

“By targeting three of these types – free spirits, cultural explorers and authentic experiencers – tourism operators around the region will be able to develop compelling marketing messages that showcase particularly appealing experiences in the Thompson-Okanagan,” he said.

The strategy notes that the Thompson-Okanagan has major tourism strengths including its weather, scenery, distinctive rural experiences, festivals, local flavours, urban facilities, and aboriginal offerings.

In order to attract its most likely visitors to authentic experiences, the strategy calls for five main areas for action: identifying iconic, memorable experiences distinctive to the region; showcasing local flavours such as cuisine, wines and local produce; developing stories about history, culture and other themes that create an emotional connection; developing travel experiences that include learning; and helping visitors understand how the region differs culturally from their home.

The strategy is still considered a draft.

TOTA will hold more consultation meetings with tourism stakeholders over the next three months for possible refinements, and the 10-year tourism road-map will be finalized by March 2012.