In the discussion on the importance of direct jobs and industry, we often hear about the positive economic spin-off affects from a particular industry but usually as a secondary concern and very rarely in a quantitative or business like way. Recently the Okanagan Wine Festival, in partnership with the British Columbia Wine Institute and the Okanagan College School of Business conducted a study looking at the economic impact of wine tourism to our local economy. The results are both encouraging and surprising.
According to the study there are now 800,000 wine tourist visits to British Columbia annually. The study further indicates that on average between wine purchases (that can now be legally taken back to other Provinces in Canada), meals enjoyed at local restaurants, transportation and accommodation, the average visitor spends $474.00 daily. Of the visitors who arrive over 50% will visit four or more wineries and a further 25% will visits as many as seven or more wineries. Currently Penticton, West Kelowna and Kelowna are the primary destinations, although Osoyoos is becoming increasingly popular as are daily bus tours.
By the numbers the wine tourism industry now employs roughly 1100 full time jobs and is estimated to have a direct economic impact of $87 million with a further $52 million estimated in indirect economic activity with over $4 million raised in increased government tax revenues. These are certainly very impressive numbers considering that across British Columbia we have 217 wineries with the vast majority being small family run operations that grow over 80 different varietals of grapes on some 9800 acres. It is also important to recognize that this success did not happen by accident– as the upcoming 33rd annual Fall Wine Festival reminds us, local vintners have been pioneering this growing industry in British Columbia now for over three decades.
Also coming up is National Forest Week. In the riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla we have lumber Mills in Merritt and West Kelowna and significantly sized value added wood product manufacturers in Okanagan-Falls, West Kelowna, and Penticton. Much like the wine industry there are also forestry related spin off jobs located in Penticton, West Kelowna, Summerland and Okanagan Falls. Over the summer months I had the opportunity to tour many of these operations and remain impressed at the innovation and market reach of our local producers.
Currently there are a few more manufacturers I am hoping to visit in the next few weeks before the House of Commons is back in session. One aspect that remains a constant is the importance of trade relationships and having access to outside markets. Many Okanagan manufacturers have clients not just around Canada and the United States, but many are now shipping overseas. Diversification in clients and expanded export markets helps keep employment steady as many operations have witnessed over the past recession the dangers of relying on a specific market. Overall there are expansions and new investment occurring throughout Okanagan-Coquihalla and that helps create new jobs and supports our local economies.
The recent study on the Okanagan wine tourism industry is very encouraging as it helps to illustrate the importance of secondary jobs and how one industry can serve as a catalyst to other new and pre-existing industries that creates a stronger overall regional economy. What is also promising from a wine perspective is that the majority of the Canadian wine market is currently dominated by foreign produced wines-meaning there is ample opportunity for continued expansion in this industry that in turn can create more direct and indirect local jobs. The Canadian Vintners Association has some interesting ideas on how industry regulation and Government can potentially change to further support our Canadian wine producers and this will be part of the discussions taking in place in the months ahead. I look forward to continuing to spotlight the success, challenges and ideas on how to grow our economy and build jobs right here in Okanagan-Coquihalla and sharing what I have learned with my colleagues in Ottawa. I also appreciate the time that constituents take in contacting my office with their ideas and suggestions and can be reached at [email protected] or via telephone 1 (800) 665-8711.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.