Generating over $2B in economic activity for our community, tourism is an integral part of our economy. Our region's diverse activities and attractions, along with the area's natural beauty, often convert visitors into new residents. To ensure the Central Okanagan remains beautiful and accessible for travellers and residents alike, Tourism Kelowna is working to manage our visitation and plan the future of tourism in our community.
Taking the First Step
In 2019, Tourism Kelowna set out on this planning journey by contracting Destination Think, a company well known for its work in communities such as the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand and Copenhagen in Denmark, to discuss the future of tourism in our region. While Destination Think's work was global in scope, the company's head office was in Vancouver, BC, and the team was familiar with the tourism landscape in the Okanagan Valley.
After a series of interviews, workshops, observations, and research reviews, Destination Think determined that due to our highly seasonal visitation, we would face challenges, with the potential to lose our social license to welcome visitors based on high visitation in summer. The recommendation was for Tourism Kelowna to complete a tourism destination development plan to ensure we successfully manage the visitor economy for the future.
Discovering Kelowna's DNA
The process started with Destination Think's Place DNA™, which involved a series of research projects all working to uncover Kelowna's core attributes and what makes it unique. To gather this valuable insight from residents, Destination Think completed workshops, surveys, and sentiment analysis. They also audited the story that we as a community were sharing on social platforms.
The result? Kelowna is a community in transition, akin to being in the adolescent stage of life. The city's DNA is directly tied to our natural environment, the beautiful lake, and all the wonderful agricultural products and vineyards. The community is social, with its residents enjoying the opportunities to engage and interact with each other.
Knowing who we are as a community means we can work to attract the right kind of visitors at the right time, who are aligned to our product offerings. However, we also need to determine what our residents' attitudes and tolerances are towards tourism: do they see it adding value or extracting from their quality of life?
Next Steps to Assemble the Strategy
Last week, we conducted two separate community workshops, one with Tourism Kelowna stakeholders and one with area residents, to share the Place DNA™ results and to gather further insight from these resident groups about how they view the future of tourism in the Central Okanagan.
Over the coming months, Destination Think will be conducting additional interviews that its team will use to craft the final tourism destination development plan for our region. This process is expected to be complete by the end of the spring.
More updates will be shared as work through the process with the final strategy ready later this summer; however, Tourism Kelowna Stakeholders can access the full Place DNA™ presentation in the Partner Bulletin section of the Tourism Kelowna Extranet.
If you have any questions about this or any of our destination development work, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.