This week is Tourism Week in Canada, a time to reflect and celebrate this industry that gives so much to our community. Throughout the year, meetings, conferences, and major events draw visitors and generate important economic activity for our destination, often helping to sustain local businesses. 

These past two months we have been able to see what our community would look like without any type of meetings, conferences, festivals or events. For many, the absence has been felt economically, seeing millions of dollars of business disappear in a matter of weeks. Our destination lost several significant sporting events. This week would have been the CHL Memorial Cup, an event that was forecasted to generate $10M in economic activity for our destination. In April, the Kelowna Curling Club was to host the 2020 World Mixed Doubles and Senior Championships, which would have drawn international attention to our city and generated over $1M in economic activity. The Junior All Native Basketball Tournament, Great Okanagan Beer Fest, and the Western Canadian Rugby Championships are just a few of the many other events cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19.

We have also seen the complete elimination of any conferences or meetings in the destination. Meetings and conferences employ 229,000 people across Canada and generated $33B for the Canadian economy in 2017. In 2019, our Business Development team generated $25.9M in economic impact opportunities from meeting and conferences leads to our community. 

However, the true value of meetings and events is not just economic. Opportunities to host delegates, performers, and athletes unite our community, inspire us, and make us proud.  Our residents have access to phenomenal entertainment and educational experiences. Our youth get the once in a lifetime opportunity to see their heroes in action. I can still remember the elation of witnessing the Kelowna Rockets win the 2004 Memorial Cup or seeing Sting perform live in concert. As well, the enormous pride I felt in welcoming delegates from all over the globe to Kelowna for the 2019 International Indigenous Tourism Conference will be a memory that lives with me for years to come. These events quite simply make Kelowna a better place to live. 

The look of a Kelowna without meetings or events has been telling and perhaps necessary for us to appreciate the value these events bring to our community. While it’s hard to quantify the connection, we all now have a better understanding of just how vitally important they are both to Kelowna and to us as human beings.