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Ripe With Surprises

Is tourism important to you?

As a resident of a tourist destination, you might have had interactions with visitors to our city recently. Maybe you helped someone find an address or pointed someone in the right direction as you crossed paths on the sidewalk. Maybe you took a photo of a couple or family on their camera as a friendly gesture. You may even have used our local Visitor Centre when you were getting ready to host visiting friends and family, getting tips on which attractions to show them and picking up brochures they could leaf through when they come to your home.

Did you know that tourism is among Kelowna’s top 5 economic drivers – an industry that employs thousands of Kelowna residents and generates tax revenues that Kelowna can access to build infrastructure, roads and public amenities? Have you considered where the tax revenues tourism generates for Kelowna would come from if Kelowna wasn’t the vacation destination that it is? If you really want to get to know the figures showing the importance of tourism to Kelowna, check out Tourism Kelowna’s Economic Impact Study summary on our website – the numbers are really quite staggering and, annually, they are on an upward trend.

In that sense, you can bet that tourism is a big part of your day to day life in Kelowna whether you directly work in the tourism industry or not. It is in our collective best interest to be the greatest vacation destination that we can be – to be the best hosts we can be to our visitors – so that our visitors go home suitably impressed with what this city offers. This is how we create word-of-mouth advertising for Kelowna; no small act if you consider how much weight most of us put in the recommendations of our trusted friends. For that matter, even the recommendations of people we don’t know impact our travel choices when you think about sites like TripAdvisor and how other people’s experiences shape whether you book a hotel, dine at a restaurant, or any other such travel decision. If we place that much trust in the words of other travelers we don’t know, imagine the trust that we place in the travel recommendations of our friends.

Over the last few days, our focus at Tourism Kelowna has been on long-term strategy. We’ve had workshops as a team with a facilitator and here are some of the lasting impressions I’ve gathered.

Tourism Kelowna works with our local tourism operators to promote Kelowna as a vacation destination, to market our city to visitors – all in the service of creating community wealth through tourism. Tourism is a major industry for Kelowna. Its export? Visitors. Yes. Think of our visitors as an export. They come to Kelowna to experience our vibrant city, refreshing lake, beautiful wineries, breathtaking scenery, expansive golf courses – you name it – and they leave with all those impressions stored in their memories and cameras. We want them to share their excitement with everyone who will listen. And we want them to come back for future visits because repeat visitors are the best kind.

Each resident of this city is also an ambassador. Each time you get a chance to leave a positive impression on a visitor, you are putting a deposit into Kelowna’s good deed bank; and that bank does pay dividends because a friendly community experience will result in a happier stay, then a repeat stay, and possibly other visitors who were inspired to come from the word-of-mouth. And those dollars spent in our community make a difference in the lives of business owners and their staff who rely on those businesses. And the tax dollars that come back to Kelowna through those visits will contribute to public amenities that our families can enjoy, raising the standard of living for all Kelowna residents.

Does tourism matter to you? You bet! And the enthusiasm about Kelowna that we can all offer to our visitors is a contribution to our community that will come back to us in the long run.


Happy Thanksgiving!

This time of the year is simply magic in Kelowna. The leaves are changing colour, the Farmers’ Market and fruit stands are still stocked full of freshly harvested produce, and the crispness in the air feels refreshing on our Kelowna hiking trails.

Many of us have Thanksgiving Monday off and have turned our sights away from the kitchen (that’s what leftovers are for!) and toward stretching that Thanksgiving weekend out further to enjoy it with family and friends. If you have little ones at home, here’s a wonderful fall farm activity that deserves a spot on your calendar.

McMillan Farms is a family-run farm in East Kelowna just teaming with great activities for kids. And with their impressive pumpkin patch, you can pick your own pumpkin to carve up for Halloween! Located just off Spiers Rd, this 110-acre family farm even brings out the kid in the adults who visit. Regularly scheduled hay rides take place daily, giving families a peak of some gorgeous farm scenery, farm animals, and often an array of wildlife.

One of my favourite things about McMillan Farms is their 12-foot tall, 3 acre corn maze. It is really quite astounding and extensive! For smaller kids, there is also a hay maze, allowing parents to maintain an eye on their little adventurers throughout their time in the maze.

And for families who get snacky, there’s the Waffelicious concession stand at McMillan Farms where you can get hot chocolate and various snacks to hit the spot. Admission to the farm is free, and small admission fees apply to the activities. A Family Fun Pack is available at $25 for a family of 5 to play in the corn maze, take a hay ride, and try their hand at the pumpkin sling shot, or select individual activities you’d like to do, each with a nominal admission fee. McMillan Farms is open to the public until October 31.

Fall Wine Festival in focus

Early October is always an exciting time in Kelowna and throughout the Okanagan Valley. It’s a time when the grape harvest is in full swing, wineries are in full action mode, and the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival takes place. This year, the dates for the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival are October 1 through 11, and is expected to draw 10,000 event-goers who can enjoy over 125 events over the 10 day period.

Here are just a few events to keep on your radar:

BC Wine Awards – Taking place on October 1 at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.), this is the official kick-off to the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival. It’s an opportunity to be among the 100 people who will be the first to learn about the wineries who will win the BC Wine Awards this year, taste these amazing wines, and to rub elbows with winemakers and viticulturists who are raising the bar for our wine industry. This is a Get Home Safe event, sponsored by BC Liquor Stores and Valley First Insurance, meaning that taxi service back home is free.

Blind Wine and Cheese Soirée – Set at the elegant Manteo Resort, this event on October 8 is a blast for your tastebuds. Different Okanagan wines will be poured with covered labels, and unique cheeses from Dairy Farmers of Canada will be served, also blind. Think you’re a hopeless case when it comes to guessing wines and cheeses? Hey, they have a prize for both the best guess and also the worst, so the playing field is definitely leveled. This is also a Get Home Safe event, sponsored by BC Liquor Stores and Valley First Insurance.

St Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery Harvest Lunch – Fancy a meal in the vineyard? Here is a fun lunch event that takes place on October 4 and again on October 11 at St. Hubertus Winery. The meal, designed by a local chef and paired with their own wines, will be served at a beautifully set long table under a white marquee in the vineyard.

Bubbly Bootcamp – This is sure to get the competitive spirit going - so playful that you won’t even notice how much you’re learning! This October 9 evening event (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) at Summerhill Pyramid Winery starts with a detailed overview of sparkling wine production & dosage tasting, then guests will be able to disgorge their very own bottle of sparkling wine under the guidance of winemaker Eric von Krosigk. Follow this up by a paired tasting of Summerhill's award-winning sparkling wine and organic appetizers, and you have a winning combination.

For a full round-up of events taking place all around the valley, check out the Okanagan Wine Festivals website. Cheers!


Farmer Appreciation Week

All last week, Tourism Kelowna was sharing tweets and Facebook posts in appreciation of farmers. The occasion was the September 8 through 15 Farmer Appreciation Week, a time for us to reflect on the vital work and contribution to our community that farmers undertake.

Although today is the final day of the official appreciation week, it’s essential to keep the spirit of the week alive throughout the rest of the year. There are several ways to do this in Kelowna. One of the best ways to appreciate the work and care that goes into farming is to take the time to visit a local farm that is open to the public. There are several in Kelowna, which accounts for the popular Farm to Table brochure offered by Tourism Kelowna. The brochure is available both in print and online, as well as a detailed description of the participating businesses on our Farm to Table webpage. Part of the experience is to see local farm ingredients incorporated into the beautiful dishes at local restaurants. Several restaurants participate in Tourism Kelowna’s Farm to Table program. Just check out the webpage or online brochure to find out which ones, and then show your support for local farmers by supporting the restaurants who work with them.

Another great way to connect with our local farmers is to visit the Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the corner of Springfield and Dilworth, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. At this time of the year you’ll find over 150 stands teaming with late summer/early fall vegetables and fruit. If you love cooking with local produce or preserving the intense flavours of summer in jars to enjoy later in the year, you’ll love a visit to our farmers’ market. Of the 125+ farmers’ markets in BC, you’ll be proud to know that Kelowna’s is one of the largest.

You can also buy produce directly from a local farm. Did you know that BC has almost 20,000 farm operations, and that 98% of them are family farms (Statistics Canada, 2011)? Just last week, our staff at Tourism Kelowna picked up 200 lbs of local pears from Gambell Farms. We spent 2 delightful evenings canning the pears and will get to enjoy the flavours in the colder months, when we can all use a little reminder of the tastes of summer.

No matter how or when you choose to mark Farmer Appreciation Week, the important thing is that you take a moment to appreciate the abundance of where we live, and the care that goes into the amazing produce we have access to. It’s in our backyard to celebrate – let’s make sure to mark the occasion.

Read more Ripe with Surprises articles

About the Author

Catherine is the Media Relations Manager for Tourism Kelowna and is dedicated to building Kelowna's intrigue as a travel destination through her work with the travel media. In her role she is fortunate to find out about Kelowna's many secret gems attractions, activities, and interesting people that are a surprise for travel media, tourists, and even for residents. This column gives her the chance to share with you the many things that make Kelowna unique and unforgettable so that you can glean ideas of places to visit or take guests when they come to town.

For more information visit Tourism Kelowna's blog at
[email protected]

or, on Twitter at:  @TKCatherine and @Tourism_Kelowna

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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