In mid-March, Tourism Kelowna's business development team, including its two remote team members, Pat Gappmayr from Toronto and Nicolle Gomez de Sousa from Calgary, hosted the first in a series of economic sector strategy familiarization (FAM) tours for Meetings & Conferences (M&C) program partners.

Aligned with Destination Canada's Economic Sector Strategy, Tourism Kelowna's Economic Sector Strategy (ESS) was designed to leverage Kelowna's economic strengths to drive meetings and conferences business. Most recently, the strategy has grown thanks to a collaborative partnership with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission and Accelerate Okanagan. Through this partnership, the award-winning OKGo campaign was launched in 2021 to raise awareness of the Central Okanagan’s economic success stories and to position the region for future economic and business growth.   

The first FAM tour of the ESS series focused primarily on agriculture sector success stories, with four local businesses welcoming our group of 25 over the course of the day:

  • SunRype was first up, providing a rundown of their history and how they have successfully integrated their operations with their Canadian parent company, Lassonde. While SunRype is a household name across Canada, the company leverages Lassonde's global presence for further distribution. 
  • From there, it was on to Day's Century Growers where Erin Day-Johnson, a third-generation orchardist, took our group on a behind-the-scenes tour of their impressive packing facility, which proudly packs 98% of BC pears with their innovative packing line.
  • A visit to Jealous Fruits' recently opened facility was up next. The company's impressive cherry operation gets 7,000 tons of fruit to market every year, with 90% of their premium cherries exported to international destinations including China and the UK.
  • The final stop on the tour was Farming Karma. The Gill family turned their apple orchard into a long-term viable business that lured the younger generation back to their farming roots. Avi Gill showed us the canning operation for Farming Karma's natural fruit sodas. The family has expanded their footprint to include a dog park, RV campground, and music studio. 

Farming Karma FAM tour

Taking advantage of their long-overdue visit to Kelowna, Nicolle and Pat completed additional site inspections at a variety of properties throughout the region, including another sector success story, the KF Aerospace Centre for Excellence, which is set to open this summer. Its breathtaking structure, with details symbolizing a plane in flight, will offer a unique space for hosting large groups as well as an aerospace museum and expansive rooftop views. 

Some of the other sites visited over the course of the trip included:

  • O’Rourke Family Estate: The O'Rourke team is completing a unique expansion, which will allow them to host approximately 4,000 delegates, including nearly 2,000 guests in its outdoor amphitheatre that looks out over vineyards and Okanagan Lake. 
  • Hyatt Place Kelowna: The centrally-located hotel, which opened in July 2020, will be creating an outdoor, tiki-style bar on its third floor to add to the flexible work and meeting space it offers.
  • Martin's Lane Winery: The winery's high-quality service team offers a high-end experience for smaller meeting groups in its architecturally stunning space. 

In total, more than 20 off-site venues welcomed our team over the course of the week; we extend our thanks to each of them for hosting us and for sharing their success stories and future plans. These firsthand experiences make it even easier for our team members and industry partners to promote Kelowna's unique offerings to meeting and event planners, and to companies within key sectors that are looking to augment their agendas with relevant site visits, off-site activities, and local innovators.

For further information about any of this information, or to learn more about Tourism Kelowna's business development activities in the Eastern or Western Canadian markets, reach out directly to Pat or Nicolle: