This year has brought the return of meetings, conferences, and events as pandemic-related health and travel restrictions eased and vaccination rates (and comfort levels) increased. While last-minute requests and future business events’ bookings have kept Kelowna venues and vendors busy for the first half of the year, we are closely monitoring inquiries for the latter part of 2022 and into 2023 and beyond, to see if the uncertainty around inflation, rising costs, and the impending recession affect the business travel market.
Eastern Canada Update
Group business previously postponed due to the pandemic has been returning in full force, with demand for meeting in Kelowna remaining high. Most of our business in the Eastern market comes from Toronto, then Ottawa, with Montreal being a tertiary market. Although the direct flight from Montreal to Kelowna is postponed, for the time being, we remain optimistic about its return so we can continue building out business in this market.
Our team is seeing bookings from the association market now booking one to two years out, which is shortened from the previous cycle of two to five years out. For corporate bookings, the cycle continues to be an average of six to 12 months out, though in some cases bookings are inquiring within three months of the event. Kelowna saw some opportunity in the incentive market, as small groups of 20 to 50 who would normally have booked internationally decided to stay in Canada; however, as more destinations open back up, we do not see the same strength present for this segment of the business.
Many groups from Eastern Canada are now coming to the table, looking to close future business and meet again in person, leading to a predicted busy fall season. The association market has been trending towards hosting hybrid events, thereby reducing the number of people attending in-person events, leading to smaller group sizes. We expect this to shift back to more traditional in-person event setups at some point, due to the added cost and complexity of running hybrid events.
In conjunction with the collaborative OKGo campaign, which highlights Kelowna’s economic sector success stories to attract business events and aligns with Destination Canada’s Economic Sector Strategy, we are targeting digital technology and manufacturing businesses. In support, our business development team promoted Kelowna at highly targeted trade and industry events including Collision, one of the world’s largest tech conferences, and Lift&Co. Expo and Cannabis Business Conference.
Western Canada Update
In 2023, we expect to see an increase in demand from Alberta’s energy sector to host off-site business events. Our economic sector strategy (ESS), specifically in the advanced manufacturing sector, will support the region’s efforts in attracting energy-related business events to our community.
Alberta’s significant focus on diversification, namely in the technology and agriculture sectors, also aligns with our ESS. There has been considerable investment in Alberta’s tech industry from companies like IBM and Amazon. On the agriculture side, investments are being made in ag-tech, production and processing, and bio-industrial products. Kelowna’s strong position as an agricultural hub adds value to business events from this market. We are seeing renewed interest from companies like Nutrien, Nufarm, and Farm Credit Canada to meet in Kelowna.
We continue to see strong performance from BC-based organizations, including many associations and expect that to continue into 2023. We have seen an increase in inquiries from associations for less than 12 months out; we expect this trend could continue for the next six to 12 months, while associations regroup following the pandemic and gather the resources to book their conferences further out.
Like the Eastern market, the incentive market in Western Canada has not seen a lot of interest; however, with more businesses opting for safe spaces with an emphasis on outdoor venues and activities, Kelowna is being considered more often. One of our local partners, Clee Varon of Iconic Wineries of BC, is a board member of a global incentive travel association, which helps to bring greater awareness to our destination.
While business from the Pacific Northwest region of the US has not yet returned, we are seeing some interest in exploring Kelowna as a destination for future business events. As we did through the pandemic, we will continue to nurture relationships with clients in this region to attract and secure future business once there is more certainty around cross-border air travel.
For all markets, we expect site inspections and familiarization trips to return fully in 2023, with some of these trips being tacked on to personal trips, since clients have had limited travel options throughout the pandemic.
For more information on Tourism Kelowna’s business development efforts, markets, and strategic priorities, please contact:
- Western Canada & Pacific Northwest US: Nicolle Gomez de Sousa, Business Development Consultant | email@example.com | (587) 716-5599
- Eastern Canada: Pat Gappmayr, Business Development Consultant | firstname.lastname@example.org | (416) 265-3464
- Business Development Strategic Priorities: Lisanne Ballantyne, President & CEO | email@example.com | (250) 861-1515 ext. 202