Tourism Kelowna’s destination development journey started in 2019, culminating with the release of the Tourism Destination Development Plan (TDDP) at the end of 2022. Read on to learn more about destination development, how the TDDP came together, and what our organization has accomplished throughout 2023.

Managing and Marketing our Destination

Traditionally, tourism destination organizations have focused primarily on marketing; however, in recent years, the conversation has shifted to include destination management, with organizations like Tourism Kelowna supporting their regions by broadening their mandates to include destination development alongside destination marketing.

The TDDP aims to identify the direction and priorities required to shape the visitor economy to positively impact all stakeholders, including residents and visitors. By adding destination development to our work, we seek to sustain economic resilience, all while furthering the quality of life for locals and ensuring exceptional experiences for visitors.

Creating Kelowna’s Tourism Destination Development Plan

The creation of the TDDP was several years in the making. The collaborative creation process saw Tourism Kelowna work with the City of Kelowna and connect with industry partners, stakeholders, and area residents through various types of engagement. This process holistically looked at Kelowna, evaluating our destination through economic, environmental, and social lenses.  

Establishing Focus Areas

Through the development of the TDDP, three focus areas were established for Kelowna:

  1. Transition Together: Facilitate the evolution of Kelowna in a way that incorporates and benefits all stakeholders.
  2. Raise Resilience: Protect and improve elements that will allow Kelowna to thrive even in the face of challenges.
  3. Enhance Experiences: Pursue place-making as an opportunity to improve the visitor experience and the quality of life for both visitors and residents.

It is important to note that destination development cannot be accomplished solely by Tourism Kelowna. Through the priorities laid out in each focus area, Tourism Kelowna will lead, partner, or advocate to responsibly manage growth in a way that supports and benefits the community at large.

Reviewing 2023

Transition Together

Wicked Wine Tours - Winter at Quails' Gate
Photo Credit: Shawn Talbot Photography

The priorities in this focus include formalizing stakeholder engagement, attracting values-aligned visitors, and increasing visitor and resident education, all three of which Tourism Kelowna takes a leading role.

After officially rolling out the TDDP to our Members and industry partners earlier this year, we continued to engage tourism stakeholders through plug-in sessions at our annual Tourism Industry Forum and by connecting with the business community by hosting a Downtown Kelowna After 5.

Engagement with the communities in our region was further formalized in several ways:

  • Westbank First Nation now has an appointed member on Tourism Kelowna’s Board, currently Jenny Money, bringing an invaluable Indigenous lens to the work our organization does.
  • After a successful pilot program, we entered into a 2-year agreement with the District of Lake Country to provide visitor services to the community.
  • Tourism Kelowna once again sponsored the Tourism Excellence Award at the Lake Country 2022 Business Excellence Awards (handed out in February 2023) and at the 2023 Kelowna Chamber Business Excellence Awards.
  • We attended the Greater Westside Board of Trade 2022 Key Business Awards and participated in a familiarization tour of Peachland, both of which provided opportunities to liaise further with partners in these Central Okanagan communities.

Increasing resident and visitor education was accomplished in several ways this year:

  • Several members of our team, including myself, delivered presentations about the value of tourism to community groups such as the Newcomer’s Alumni Club and Ogopogo Rotary, as well as to post-secondary students at Okanagan College, Van West College, and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
  • During National Tourism Week, stats demonstrating the value of tourism were displayed on the windows at the Kelowna Visitor Centre (KVC); these stats were also distributed through some of Tourism Kelowna’s social media channels. Our team at the KVC hosted activations during Tourism Week to engage with residents and visitors.
  • In May, we executed the fourth annual Love for Kelowna Day, with nearly 1,200 people—a mix of locals and visitors—passing through the doors of the KVC to take in several activations. Twenty-four Tourism Kelowna Members also provided special offers to the public on Love for Kelowna Day, which were included in a fun bingo-style challenge encouraging participants to explore our region and, in turn, support local businesses.
  • Thanks to an Indigenous Learning & Projects Grant for Visitor Services, funded through a partnership between Destination BC and Indigenous Tourism BC, our team is currently working on additional displays for the KVC highlighting the syilx Okanagan people, intending to further educate travellers and residents.

We have come up with a working definition of a holistically values-aligned visitor. We will pursue this further in the coming year, using the finalized version to attract these types of visitors to our destination.

Raise Resilience

Kelowna International Airport YLW
Photo Credit: Michael Hintringer Photography

This focus area allows Tourism Kelowna to act as a partner and advocate for three priorities: improving connectivity and transportation, encouraging the development of affordable housing, and protecting the environment.

Connectivity and transportation have consistently been at the forefront of challenges brought to our team. This year, Tourism Kelowna submitted letters of support for engaging ride-sharing in the province; in June, Uber officially launched in Kelowna, adding another trusted transportation offering for locals and visitors. Additional work was done through my position on the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC) Board. We also provided our staff and volunteers with more training to help them promote public transportation and active transportation modes, like cycling and scooters.

In addition to discussing air services development at monthly meetings with Kelowna International Airport (YLW), Tourism Kelowna also joined partners from YLW and Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association to meet with Alaska Airlines in Seattle, advocating for more direct flights from the city to Kelowna. On December 14, YLW announced that Alaska Airlines would resume direct flights five days a week, year-round. We are currently working to retain the hotel shuttle to YLW and continue to advocate for more public transportation options to and from the airport.

Tourism Kelowna’s President & CEO, Lisanne Ballantyne, worked with the City of Kelowna on its 2023 housing needs assessment, with a few of our team members completing online engagement related to the assessment. We continue to look for avenues to highlight tourism’s support of affordable housing initiatives, mainly through the funds from the Online Accommodation Platform (OAP) Municipal & Regional District Tax (MRDT) that are funnelled towards affordable housing.

Downtown Kelowna Winter Aerial
Photo credit: Ken Hagen
In the summer, we began working with a Mitacs Master’s student from UBCO to uncover potential opportunities and limitations of destination development within our region. The project is anticipated to be completed in the second quarter of 2024, with a new component about resilience around natural disasters and an action plan with recommendations on what to do.

Our team continues to lead climate action initiatives through the KVC, where we have increased the number of solar panels on the building’s roof from 48 to 74. Thanks to this increase, we are now contributing energy back to the grid in peak summer months. We have also continued participating in the Lake Country compost program, which collects compost materials and soft plastics from the KVC.

One tree is planted for every purchase made at the KVC or through our online store, thanks to partnerships with organizations including One Tree Planted and Veritree. On Earth Day, we increased the number of trees planted to 10 for every purchase, leading to 250 trees being planted from sales that day. Through the retail program and the efforts of other initiatives from our team, more than 19,000 trees have been planted so far this year.

Our organization also supported the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's (TOTA) campaign, developed through a partnership with Natural Resources Canada and FortisBC, to reduce the region’s carbon footprint by promoting the use of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). We communicated messaging about the campaign during the sustainability session at the Tourism Industry Forum and attended sessions hosted by TOTA and the Kelowna Hotel Motel Association.

Enhance Experiences

Kelowna Public Art Display
Photo Credit: Chris Lewis

The final focus area, Enhance Experiences, encompasses four priorities that Tourism Kelowna will take the lead on implementing:

  • Developing and activating more public spaces. 
  • Pursuing purpose-based niche market segments. 
  • Developing and/or protecting backstage experiences for residents.
  • Developing rich ecosystems of experiences. 

The #exploreKelowna Local Savings Pass was relaunched at the beginning of November, connecting Kelowna and area residents with exclusive offers and discounts that make supporting local businesses fun, easy, and rewarding.  

Most recently, we successfully launched a new mobile public art display, pictured above, at the Downtown Kelowna Winter Street Market & Light Up. The portable display will activate public spaces and events in and around Kelowna, providing a gathering spot for locals and visitors to meet and take photos. Our team is currently working with community partners, including the City of Kelowna, to determine an activation schedule for 2024. Funding for this project was provided in part by the Government of Canada's Tourism Relief Fund

Representing the voice of the tourism industry, we participated in four engagement sessions regarding the redevelopment of the former Tolko mill site, which included discussions about the development of downtown Kelowna's North End and brewery district. 

Looking Ahead to 2024

In mid-October, on the heels of the summer's devastating wildfires, City Council declared a climate emergency, supporting the need for increased resilience and environmental protection. These will be critical focus areas for Tourism Kelowna's destination development work in the coming year. Work is already beginning to develop a fall 2024 and winter 2024/25 plan incorporating prevention and recovery initiatives. More details about destination development tactics will be provided in the new year. 

If you have questions, please reach out to me at or at (250) 861-1515 ext. 207.