Welcome mat extends south

A plunging Canadian dollar has tourism officials in Vernon revisiting their marketing strategy.

A plunging Canadian dollar has tourism officials in Vernon revisiting their marketing strategy.

While much of the city’s focus has been on promoting the community in the Lower Mainland,  there could be a shift to visitors from across the border as the exchange rate works to their advantage.

“In 2016, we will look to broaden our horizons,” said Kevin Poole, economic development manager.

“We want to look at the U.S. marketplace and encourage them to come to Vernon.”

Part of that process could possibly include attending events such as a golf show in Seattle.

The focus on the U.S. comes as a traditional source of tourists, Alberta, is challenged economically because of turmoil in the oil and gas sector.

“The longer it goes on there, it’s not good for us, especially with tourism,” said Poole.

“Those jobs provide them with dollars to spend time in our community.”

Final figures for the city’s hotel room tax aren’t compiled for 2015, but there were records set in September and October. Those funds go towards marketing.

Elsewhere on the economic front, the city issued $110 million in building permits in 2015, up from $92 million in 2014.

Last year was the second best year on record for commercial permits.

Among the building permits issued were $23.6 million for B.C. Hydro on Kalamalka Lake Road.

In terms of residential, a demolition permit has been issued for the former Kal Tire property on 48th Avenue, which will be redeveloped into seniors housing and commercial units.

There is also a $12 million building permit for residential housing on the Bennett parking lot on 29th Avenue.

“It’s a major investment in downtown and it will change the landscape of downtown,” said Poole.

The city sold the Bennett lot to the developer for $1.8 million.