Throughout 2023, we’ll be connecting with Kelowna and area residents to discover more about the people who call this region home, to learn about their favourite places, and to find out how tourism impacts their lives, while also highlighting the benefits a strong tourism sector creates for Kelowna and its surrounding communities.
Follow along to learn more about Kelowna from those who know it best—locals.
Born and raised in Kelowna, Courtney Koga is the fourth generation of her family to call the city home. Growing up, she made the most of the region’s four-season playground by “fishing in the spring, spending summers in the water, fall in the orchard, and winters skating at the pond.”
In 2011, Courtney graduated from Okanagan College’s Business Administration program, specializing in hospitality and tourism, and in 2014, alongside her sister Meiko, opened CrAsian Food Truck.
“My love of food and people is what led my journey into hospitality, exploring all corners of the restaurant industry,” says Courtney, who also launched Provisions Kitchen & Catering at Kettle River Brewing with her partner, Chef Brock Bowes.
Pictured: Courtney (left) and her sister Meiko (right)
In 2018, Tourism Kelowna’s Visitor Intercept Survey found that food and farm-to-table experiences were the third most popular activity visitors planned to participate in, with the highest percentage of participation taking place during the fall. As of 2021, there were just over 8,800 businesses in the accommodation and food services sector, providing visitors and locals with a wealth of options in the region.
Living in Kelowna allows Courtney to “partake in everything a large city has to offer but with a small-town feel,” adding that “Kelowna's size allows for small actions to have a large impact, essential for building a strong community.”
The strength of Kelowna’s community is particularly evident in the food and beverage industry, where collaboration occurs regularly to offer innovative experiences or to support each other and the community. When wildfire broke out this summer, the team at Kettle River worked with local musicians, who regularly perform at the brewery, to host a fundraiser for the local food bank. A year earlier, the brewery created an International Women's Day brew in collaboration with other women-owned businesses in the community—Born to Shake, ChaiBaba, and Taste of the Okanagan each made their own flavour to mix in with Kettle River's neutral brewed ale. A portion of sales was donated to the Pink Boots Society, who spearheads the annual event.
“You can have hospitality without tourism, but you can't have tourism without hospitality,” notes Courtney. “As a brewery and restaurant, we serve food and drink but ultimately we are providing a place to be, which is what tourists are looking to enjoy.”
On top of the economic boost that tourism gives the local economy, Courtney also appreciates the “new energy and diversity” that visitors bring with them.
“Having folks come from all around the world to explore Kelowna sheds new light on areas that are sometimes overlooked or taken for granted by locals,” she adds. “A vibrant tourism sector gives residents pride and awareness of how fortunate we are to be able to call this place home.”
Here are a few spots Courtney recommends to family and friends when they visit Kelowna
Head to the Kelowna Farmers' & Crafters' Market
Photo credit: Seekers Media & Nancy Shields
"It's like a highlight reel of all Kelowna's abundance. After shopping the crafters and snacking on King's Vegetarian Food (yes, even if you're not vegetarian), pick up some locally butchered meats, fruits and preserves, and freshly baked bread."
Visit SpearHead Winery
Photo credit: Ken Hagen
"Less than a 10-minute drive from the city centre will take you to East Kelowna, where you'll be amongst the orchards and vines. SpearHead is the perfect place to picnic over a bottle of wine, produced from estate-grown grapes with unmatched quality and served with the utmost care."
Walk the Waterfront
Photo credit: Darren Hull Studios
"It's something to enjoy year-round. Kelowna's boardwalk is amazing in that on one side you have swimmable beaches and on the other you have locally owned businesses, all off one route."
View more of what Courtney loves about Kelowna