The outlook for the tourism industry across the region is for a third consecutive year of growth, says the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.
President Glenn Mandziuk says tourist visitor statistics released by the provincial government reflected another boom year for tourism in 2016.
The international visitor numbers were up 12.2 per cent for January to October 2016 compared to the previous year, which translated into 531,431 more visitors to the province.
Notable increases included from Australia, 45.3 per cent; China, 23.2 per cent; Mexico, 23 per cent; the UK, 2.8 per cent; and the U.S., up 8.1 per cent.
While the government touted the emergency of metro Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island has attracting a visitor increase, Mandziuk said there is definite spillover in tourism visitor growth for the Thompson Okanagan region.
“Vancouver and Victoria are still doing stronger from a tourism perspective within the province, but we are certainly a close third with a great opportunity moving forward to continue to grow our industry.”
In 2016, Mandziuk noted a 60 per cent visitor increase in the South Okanagan, stronger numbers in parts of the North Thompson area and an increase of 15 per cent in the Central Okanagan.
“When you look at the numbers on a sector by sector basis for our region, we see the outdoor adventure experiences for tourists up 20 to 30 per cent, the golf sector up 10 per cent, so there are very strong indicators and there is no doubt the region has come off two very good years from a tourism perspective,” said Mandziuk.
He cites many factors for that growth, starting with a regional approach to marketing and successful promotion initiatives launched by Destination B.C. and Destination Canada.
“Groups across the region are working together to help promote tourism, buying into the concept that what is good for one area of the region will be beneficial to others parts of the region as well.”
But for all the good news, Mandziuk says TOTA’s goal remains to continue to spread out the tourism season in summer to the spring and fall, the so-called shoulder season.
“We are seeing reductions in the drop-off that happens in the spring and summer but we still have a long way to go towards breaking down those seasonal destination barriers to encourage and enable more people to visit in the spring and fall months,” he said.
“When those changes start to happen in significant way, it will make for a more sustainable tourism industry in our region.”
That sustainability, he added, will allow tourism business operators to retain employees longer and bring more tourism related investment to the region.