Tourism Kelowna is a data-driven organization, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to monitor the impact that this health emergency is having on our industry.
Local Industry Performance
In September, and for the fourth straight month, Kelowna and the Central Okanagan registered an increase in overnight trips to the area with a total of 222,660 visitors, a 36.16% increase year over year (YOY). The total year-to-date (YTD) overnight stays to Kelowna have now increased YOY by 3% to 1,474,990.
On the other hand, hotels and motels in Kelowna continue to present a decline in average occupancy when compared to last year. In the nine months ending in September, Kelowna has seen an average hotel occupancy of 44.3%, which is a decrease of 25.5 points from the same time frame last year. It is important to note that this year three new hotels have opened in Kelowna, which would naturally have an effect on occupancy levels.
Kelowna accommodators did, however, register occupancies consistently above the Provincial average and during the summer months, Kelowna and the Central Okanagan were one of the leading destinations for travel in the province despite the challenges. Even though we are one of the leading destinations, we are still seeing a significant drop and as we move into the fall and winter, and our industry will continue to be challenged until full recovery is possible.
The hotel occupancy data demonstrates that visitors are choosing smaller and more intimate accommodation options such as Airbnb, camping, and staying with family and friends over the more traditional options of hotels and resorts. Lead times and booking windows remain very short; however, time spent researching destinations has increased significantly. This serves as a reminder to make sure your website and social media are updated regularly not only with inspiring messaging but also with information regarding your COVID-19 measures and procedures.
Passengers travelling through the airport have also decreased steadily throughout the year. In the nine months ending in September, there has been a 60% drop in passengers. This shows that being a drive-to market has been very beneficial for the Central Okanagan, with the majority of visitors arriving by vehicle.
Visit our Monthly Industry Indicators page for a month-by-month breakdown of our research.
The consulting firm CBRE Hotels recently released a Q3 2020 industry update report. The tourism industry was hoping for higher summer travel demand to try and make up for the impacts of the spring; however, this did not materialize. Average occupancies in the country only reached 40% in the key months of July and August. The CBRE report, which you can access here, delves into the financial repercussions for operators and presents their recovery outlook to 2025.
Other data resources
Our regional, provincial, and national counterparts continue to also provide timely data on resident sentiment, hotel occupancies, and visitation.
The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) publishes a biweekly research roundup post called "Fast Facts," which can be accessed on the TOTA website or delivered to your inbox by subscribing to TOTA's newsletters.
Destination British Columbia (DBC) has a robust Research & Insights section on their website that includes COVID-19 Research Roundup Reports. Published weekly, these aggregate a large amount of BC specific indicators that include hotel occupancy and visitation, resident sentiment, movement across BC, ferry volume and airline bookings, just to name a few. You can find the weekly reports by clicking here or you can subscribe to their newsletter and receive it weekly.
Destination Canada also has a COVID-19 specific research page that offers reports and insights from a national perspective. You can click here for more information or subscribe to their newsletters for timely information.