Prior to the pandemic, tourism in Kelowna and the Central Okanagan was a $2.1 billion dollar industry. As a vital economic driver in the region, there is no doubt of the value that tourism brings, generating close to 13,000 jobs, $443 million in visitor spending, and $204 million in tax revenues for local, provincial, and federal programs and infrastructure. The value of tourism, however, is not only economic, as the industry contributes positively to the quality of life of our region’s residents, who can enjoy world-class amenities, events, and attractions year-round, alongside visitors.

To further showcase the importance of our local tourism industry, we are connecting with our stakeholders, industry partners, and other local businesses and organizations to find out more about what tourism means to them. 


Kelowna Beer Institute

Contributed by Co-Owner, Chris Stirling

Kelowna Beer Institute Patio
Photo Credit: Kelowna Beer Institute
 

Q: How does tourism positively impact your business or organization?
A: We have a great group of regulars that have become part of our family at the Kelowna Beer Institute but unfortunately they are not enough to keep our business going year round. Without the tourism that comes to Kelowna every year we would not be in business. We really felt that fact this past year when Kelowna did not see the visitors it normally does. Because we are located in the Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort, we also rely on conferences booked in the hotel and events at Prospera Place, like WHL games and concerts, to bring customers to our place.

Q: What value does tourism bring to our local communities?
A: 
Tourism is great for our local community—it adds a level of positive energy to the region as people come here and remind us of how beautiful our corner of the world is. The tourism industry allows the local businesses like ours to thrive and remain independent and local.

Q: How has your business or organization adapted or evolved through COVID-19?
A: We had to adapt to all the new rules to keep our staff and our customers safe during COVID-19, which was not easy (or cheap) but it was important to us to make sure our staff and guests felt safe. We installed plexiglass everywhere, created a role for someone just to clean and disinfect all surfaces, we expanded our patio to allow more space between tables, and trained our staff on all protocols to keep everyone safe.  Another piece we did during the pandemic is to really focus on our locals and regulars—we created online events designed to keep us all connected during a time when we were all locked in our homes. This resulted in stronger bonds with our customers that carried us through the hard times. We really do have the best customers.

Q: What do you value most about our local tourism industry?
A: We value the people our tourism industry brings to Kelowna. The tourists in our region are here to enjoy the beauty of the region and be active in Kelowna and not just stay in their hotel. The people that come here support local, experience all that the Okanagan has to offer, and then sit in our place and tell stories of their adventures and remind us how lucky we are to live here.

Q: What other local business/organization would you recognize for their collaborative efforts, resiliency, and/or innovation since COVID-19 hit?
A: Everyone of the craft breweries in Kelowna have had to adapt to the constant challenges of the pandemic and all have shown how resilient they are given every one of them is still open and we even have a few more that opened during these crazy times. The Kelowna craft beer scene is strong, vibrant, and here to stay – look out wineries, Kelowna is soon to be known as beer country.

Q: What is your favourite Kelowna hidden gem or local spot that you'd recommend others to visit?
A: It is not a spot but more an activity – anyone coming to Kelowna should book a ride on the Smile Cycle. If you're coming with a group of friends it’s a great way to see the local craft breweries, wineries, and distillery, and to share some laughs. If you are here alone, it is a great way to meet others. We have never seen a group on Smile Cycle enter our place without a smile on their face.


Kettle River Brewing Co.

Contributed by Co-Founder, Chris Dedinsky

Kettle River Brewing Co. Image
Photo Credit: BC Ale Trail
 

Q: How does tourism positively impact your business or organization?
A: We see a significant increase in traffic by folks from out of town. During the busy summer tourism season, we are extremely busy and proud to show off our brewery and the growing North End beer scene to those who are visiting Kelowna. 

Q: What value does tourism bring to our local communities?
A: The influx of tourism creates many job opportunities for small businesses such as ours.

Q: How has your business or organization adapted or evolved through COVID-19?
A: We have undergone many changes and adaptations during this past year-plus. From having to close our tasting room and kitchen entirely at the start of the pandemic and resorting to takeaway only, then pivoting to packaging and selling cans of our beer, and later losing indoor dining ability and having to reno our outdoor patio space to allow more safe seating. We even put a patio on our patio to try to make the outdoor space have additional safe seating. Through all these adaptations, our staff has been incredible and have always gone above and beyond in changing to new service styles and safety protocols. They are truly remarkable. 

Q: What do you value most about our local tourism industry?
A: The support from Tourism Kelowna, Destination BC, and the BC Ale Trail.

Q: What other local business/organization would you recognize for their collaborative efforts, resiliency, and/or innovation since COVID-19 hit?
A: I would like to give a shout out to everyone in the Kelowna craft beer community who has had to pivot their business and service model, again and again, to be able to keep open while keeping their staff and community safe. It's been extremely impressive and an inspiring bunch to be a part of. 

Q: What is your favourite Kelowna hidden gem or local spot that you'd recommend others to visit?
A: Paul's Tomb is one of my favourite spots in the North End. We were living near Knox Mountain when Kettle River Brewing first opened so spent a lot of our downtime walking the dog over there and swimming in the lake.


McCurdy Bowling Centre & Freddy's Brewpub

Contributed by Marketing Manager, Chris Bunnage

Freddy's Brewpub Patio
Photo Credit: Freddy's Brewpub

Q: How does tourism positively impact your business or organization?
A: Over the past few years we have noticed tourists who visit us annually are now working us into their holiday plans. Typically, bowling is a great option for a really hot or rainy day here in the Okanagan and that’s how a lot of first time tourists come to find us...BUT NOW they plan to visit us by calling ahead and making reservations just like they would a campsite, hotel, etc. It’s amazing to see how many families visit us every summer as a way to cool down with some bowling fun after a hot summer's day on the beach. We have also noticed a large increase in brewery tours and brewery crawls, as who doesn’t want a cold craft beer this time of year?

Q: What do you value most about our local tourism industry?
A: We get to see a lot of new faces, which is always exciting as we love to share what we do. With an added patio, brewery expansion, and more...it’s important to us to be able to reach not only our community but neighboring communities as well. The best part...there are many ways to take home a little piece of our business whether it’s craft beer to go, sauces from our kitchen, or a memorable t-shirt or gift.

Q: What other local business/organization would you recognize for their collaborative efforts, resiliency, and/or innovation since COVID-19 hit?
A:  We want to give a shout out to ALL restaurants and breweries here in Kelowna. These are businesses that have had to adapt monthly, weekly, daily, and sometimes hourly! It’s been so amazing to see how so many restaurants/breweries have worked so hard to continue to serve our communities and continue to employ staff as best as possible with a smile on their faces.

Q: What is your favourite Kelowna hidden gem or local spot that you'd recommend others to visit?
A: There are so many hidden gems, where do you start? Actually, a great way is to look up Okanagan E Kruise, who provide a local e-bike rental service here in Kelowna. We recently used their service and had a great time exploring up and down the Okanagan Rail Trail to numerous breweries and cideries along the way. So much fun!!


Want to take part in our Value of Tourism series? Email me at your convenience to discuss further.