The tourism industry is a powerful force in British Columbia and a major economic driver in the Kelowna area. B.C. hosts 21.6 million visitors annually, contributing $18.4 billion to the provincial economy every year. Tourism in the Central Okanagan is also big business, a $1.25 billion-dollar industry with over 2 million annual visitors generating more than $337 million in spending, approximately 12,000 jobs, and over $142 million in tax revenues that fund local investment in infrastructure, services, and projects that ensure residents' quality of life.

“Tourism Week is an important opportunity to highlight how tourism touches every corner of the province and has become one of our region’s leading business sectors,” said Lisanne Ballantyne, President and CEO of Tourism Kelowna. “Tourism Kelowna will continue to use targeted destination marketing campaigns to increase visitation and economic impact across all four seasons for the long-term sustainability of our destination and industry.”

Kelowna Visitor Centre - Aerial (3)

Visitor Economy

Recent Tourism Kelowna visitor surveys show approximately 55% of total visitors come to the area for leisure travel. The average length of stay in Kelowna is between four and five nights with more than half (52%) arriving by car and 43% arriving via Kelowna International Airport. The average travel party size is four people with an average total spend of $1,503. Approximately 80% of visitors are from Canada (37% B.C., 24% Alberta, 9% Ontario, 10% other parts of Canada), 6% from the United States (2% Washington, 1% California, 1% Texas, 2% other parts of the U.S.), and 13% from other countries (4% Asia-Pacific, 2% United Kingdom, 1% Germany, 6% other countries).

Growing Event Tourism

Attracting new major events and business travel is the cornerstone of Tourism Kelowna’s four-season strategy. The 2018 World Mixed Curling Championships generated $1.21 million in new spending to the province and upcoming events like the 2019 International Indigenous Tourism Conference, 2019 Skate Canada International, 2020 World Mixed Doubles and Senior Curling Championships, and the 2020 Memorial Cup will create demand in traditionally slower months when hotels have availability to accommodate larger groups. This unique, collaborative major events strategy resulted in Kelowna recently being named the 2018 top major sports city in Canada for population size. 

“Tourism plays a vital role in building resiliency and supporting regional growth plans,” said Ballantyne. “Kelowna hotels continued to prosper last year generating some record-breaking occupancy months despite challenging summer weather. Passenger numbers continue to skyrocket at YLW, now serving 2 million passengers annually as the 10th busiest airport in Canada.”

The industry outlook is positive says Ballantyne but with a caveat. “The visitor economy can only continue to grow with the support of residents and a strong local understanding of the economic and social benefits that tourism delivers. The future of tourism will have to be co-created with residents, business, and visitors in mind.”

Updated economic impact statistics for 2018 are expected to be released in the fall. For more information, contact Director of Marketing & Communication, Chris Shauf, at or at (250) 861-1515 ext. 203.

About Tourism Kelowna

As the lead destination marketing organization (DMO) for the Central Okanagan, Tourism Kelowna works on behalf of over 415 local businesses and an entire tourism community to generate overnight visitor demand that economically benefits Kelowna and its surrounding areas. The BC tourism industry recently named Tourism Kelowna the 2018 DMO of the year for Professional Excellence, recognizing the organization’s performance, accountability, and commitment to uplifting the local and provincial tourism industry sector.