Travel Penticton reflects on a tough pandemic year

Tourism industry reflects

"Four seasons of fun" is new a collaboration between Castanet and Travel Penticton showcasing what Penticton has to offer all year round. Watch for it every Monday morning.

It's been a tough year for tourism, and Travel Penticton is reflecting back on a year of COVID-19 pitfalls, while making plans for a post-pandemic recovery.

Travel Penticton originated in 2016 as a way to help promote local Penticton attractions, activities and businesses, and provide collaborative marketing.

"Our initial goals were to build awareness of the community and Penticton as a destination to external markets. Our job is to let people know in Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, Alberta, Washington State, Oregon and the whole Pacific Northwest area where Penticton is and what we have to offer here," said Thom Tischik, Travel Penticton executive director.

“We work closely with our membership to build awareness of their businesses to a larger market.”

However, late February of last year, when news of the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading, they knew they would need to make a shift.

By mid-March the businesses they were working so hard to promote were mandated to close. They had to adapt and take a new unique approach to promoting Penticton safely, locally, and work with their partners to promote their adapting businesses.

Travel Penticton worked heavily through social media to notify the community of notable changes, local promotions and creative offerings, and collaborated on marketing programs to help them succeed.

With things beginning to open up last summer, they were able to expand their programs to include Vancouver and the lower mainland again.

“We wanted to invite visitors to experience Penticton and what the South Okanagan has to offer, however with increasing cases in the fall we had to change it back to a local focus. We never stopped offering or promoting support for our local businesses," Tischik said.

They worked alongside the City of Penticton’s "Love Local" campaign, with the Downtown Penticton Association, the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and various departments within the City of Penticton.

They continued featuring our local establishments and the advantages of supporting businesses like our craft breweries, restaurants and activity operators. With connections through local media, radio and large social media followings, Travel Penticton were able to offer an amplified voice for small businesses looking to showcase their promotions and changes.

And Travel Penticton has built stronger relationships through collaborative efforts with other communities in the South Okanagan to establish a program called "Visit South Okanagan."

“People visiting other areas in the South Okanagan are more likely to visit Penticton now,” Tischik explained.

“They can take advantage of the restaurants, go on wine tours, go cycling the Kettle Valley rail trail, float down the channel, or try some of our fantastic craft breweries. We fully intend to continue working with local communities to build support together in the region."

Although he is uncertain of what the future holds and what the "new normal" looks like, Tischik maintains: “We will work within the restrictions given and we do have plans to promote a few big things.”

This includes developing a Culinary Trail program called "The Daily Special" where they work with local and regional food service providers, featuring farm to table and the culinary highlights within the area. They are also creating a "Fuel Free - Almost" campaign which encourages locals and visitors to go car free and ride their bike, walk, skateboard, paddleboard, float, swim, etc. to get to their destinations.

“It's such an easy area to move around and you can literally leave your keys in your hotel room or house and access all kinds of activities in the city without ever needing your vehicle," Tischik said.

The final campaign is a focus on what they’re calling the "Penticton Iconic" where they feature prominent features that make Penticton special, like the KVR, wineries, floating the channel and Okanagan and Skaha lakes.

Travel Penticton is also currently working hard alongside businesses to encourage accessibility. They are currently offering free online seminars by appointment with Spinal Cord Injury BC and the goal is to help people understand what accessibility means and how it can be integrated into their businesses.

“Quite often people are concerned it might be very costly but in fact, it’s often small changes that can help make a business more accessible,” says Tischik.

As for "getting back to normal," they are uncertain of what that will look like. They plan to continue building awareness for the community and highlighting local businesses and activities.

Although they developed closer relationships due to the pandemic, they plan to continue their collaborative efforts with their partners and surrounding Okanagan communities. In the meantime, they hope everyone will continue to support local until we are able to safely open up and start promoting Penticton on a regional, provincial, national and international level once again.

Learn more at www.visitpenticton.com and on social @visitpenticton

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