As we get set to bid farewell to the challenges this year presented for our local tourism industry, let's shine a spotlight on some of the achievements and highlights that took place in 2023, reminding us that even in adversity, there's also room for celebration.

Downtown Kelowna Winter Aerial

Leading the Way

For the second year in a row, Kelowna made it on Leading Places' 100 Most Loved Destinations list, moving up from spot 96 in 2022 to spot 84 in 2023. 

Developing our Destination

Kelowna’s Tourism Destination Development Plan, co-created with the City of Kelowna, industry partners, and area residents, rolled out in March and now informs all of our team's work. Recently, Tourism Kelowna was recognized with a 2023 Meaningful Tourism Award for the plan. 

Showcasing Kelowna

After a few years of reduced activity, Tourism Kelowna's Travel Media Program resumed in full capacity. We showcased Kelowna at the Travel Media Association of Canada 2023 Conference and, throughout the year, invited journalists, content creators, and influencers to come experience the best of Kelowna, resulting in coverage in several publications

Collaborating for Success

This year, we expanded existing partnerships and developed new collaborations. For example, Tourism Kelowna joined forces with Travel Penticton, Destination Osoyoos, Tourism Vernon, and Tourism Kamloops to launch Travelling Out in the Okanagan (TOTO), a marketing campaign targeting the 2SLGBTQIA+ travel market, with funding through Destination BC's Co-operative Marketing Program

Meeting Group Walking on Boardwalk

Attracting Business Events, Talent, and Investment

The collaborative OKGo campaign continued into its third year, driven by a partnership between the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, Accelerate Okanagan, and Tourism Kelowna. In 2023, 11 trade and investment representatives from countries around the globe attended a targeted one-day tour, introducing them to our region's key economic sectors and to the strategy behind the OKGo campaign. 

Securing Meetings, Conferences, and Events

Proving meetings, conferences, sports, and events are the cornerstones of tourism resilience, our Business Development team exceeded its 2023 targets, securing more than 160 leads and more than 46,500 future room nights, for a combined estimated economic impact of just over $31 million.

Welcoming Major Events

Major events returned in full force this year, with BreakOut West 2023 and the Pan Continental Curling Championships 2023 taking place in the fall. At the end of October, Curling Canada announced the exciting news that the 2025 Montana's Brier would be hosted in Kelowna. All three events were secured through community partnerships, including those built as part of Tourism Kelowna's Major Events Strategy.

Couple Hiking at Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park Aerial 6

Prioritizing Sustainability

Our team continues to lead climate action initiatives through the Kelowna Visitor Centre (KVC). In 2023, we added more solar panels to the KVC roof, increasing the total from 48 to 74. Thanks to this increase, we are now contributing energy back to the grid during peak summer months. Additionally, one tree is planted in BC for each purchase made at the KVC or through our online store,; so far this year, more than 18,000 trees have been planted. 

Staying the Course

Industry indicators were strong and above average for the first half of 2023. While these indicators were impacted significantly due to wildfires in the third quarter, they re-stabilized and have been trending slightly ahead of last year for the fourth quarter. 

Supporting Each Other

In response to summer wildfires, the tourism industry came together to supports its own and the community at large. Local businesses executed a number of initiatives, from providing food and shelter to evacuees to raising funds for those affected by the fires, and everything in between. 

For its part, Tourism Kelowna supported the industry in numerous ways, including launching campaigns and content partnerships as soon as the travel order was lifted to encourage visitation in the fall; activating our emergency marketing reserve funds to increase paid advertising spend in the fall; collaborating with tourism and industry partners on marketing campaigns and advocacy requests; and hosting the provincial minister responsible for tourism for a stakeholder roundtable about the impact of the fires. 

Cocktail Class at Born to Shake 7

Making Travelling Easier

The Kelowna International Airport welcomed new routes to its schedule, kicked off the first phase of its Airport Terminal Building Expansion Project, and advocated alongside Tourism Kelowna and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association for more direct flights from Seattle to Kelowna. 

Investing for the Future

In March, the Government of BC announced $44.8 million for the new Centre for Food, Wine and Tourism at Okanagan College's Kelowna campus. The modern centre, expected to open in 2026, is expected to expand culinary enrollment by more than 125 students and hospitality and tourism enrollment by 450 students per year, helping address the growing labour shortage and supporting homegrown talent.  

Celebrating Triumphs

Once again this year, Kelowna's tourism-related businesses demonstrated their resilience, tenacity, and innovation in the face of adversity, while also supporting the community at large. We raise a glass to all of you, and to the successes that have illuminated our journey in 2023!

The entire Tourism Kelowna team looks forward to working alongside you in 2024, ready to capitalize on opportunities and tackle challenges together to grow the Central Okanagan's vital tourism industry.