An event that will showcase fine food, great Okanagan wine and independent film is coming to Osoyoos next spring.
During a presentation to Town of Osoyoos council on Monday, Kelly Glazer, the new executive director of Destination Osoyoos (DO), said she will be travelling to Wolfville, Nova Scotia the first week in November to attend a huge community event called Devour!
That event now attracts more than 25,000 people over five days in the small community with a population similar to Osoyoos, said Glazer, who started her new job with DO back in May.
Following her presentation to council, Glazer said her plan is to hold the inaugural Devour! event in Osoyoos next May.
The festival will combine food, wine and a multi-day film festival and she’s really looking forward to attending the event in Wolfville during the first week of November, said Glazer. She has already made contacts with the B.C. Film Commission and Okanagan Film Commission to become partners in the festival.
The Devour! festival in Wolfville has become a huge success and she fully realizes it’s going to take several years to grow the event here in Osoyoos, she said.
Destination Osoyoos is in charge of the contract to promote economic development in this community and Glazer said holding successful community events like OysterFest has been on her mind since taking over her new job five months ago.
The organizing committee of the Devour! festival in Nova Scotia has not only invited her to attend this year’s event, but has also agreed to pick up the entire tab of her trip, she said.
“In addition to Oyster Festival, we are planning to introduce another destination development event featuring food, wine and film from our region,” she said. “The film portion of this event allows us to target new visitors and adds an interesting twist to how the food and wine will be presented.
“This event … is expected to be a 2-3 day event in May, attracting at least the same amount of visitors as the Oyster Festival does, but the experiences within the Devour! festival will fetch a slightly higher ticket price.”
Glazer spent most of the remainder of her presentation to council discussing the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) and Destination Marketing Fee (DMF), which raise the majority of funding that allows DO to operate as the marketing agency that promotes the Town of Osoyoos across B.C. and other parts of Canada.
Osoyoos has the benefit of collecting a two-per-cent hotel tax from the 28 participating accommodators that belong to the Osoyoos Hotel Motel Association. This tax has been the primary funding source for the visitor attraction and tourism marketing efforts of DO year over year.
DO also receives a graduating DMF from the Spirit Ridge Owners Association as of April 2016 for the next three years in the amount of $30,000 in 2016, $40,000 in 2017 and $50,000 in 2018, said Glazer.
The forecasted revenue in DMRT for 2016 is $376,000. The town, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) and Nk’Mip Resort Association also contribute just over $102,000 to capitalize on the region’s unique strengths and emerging resources, she said. The town also pays $88,000 a year in the five-year economic development fee for service agreement with DO.
There was a 20 per cent increase in hotel taxes collected through the MRDT in 2016 over the previous years, which is very good news, said Glazer.
“That means our folks (hotel and motel owners) are making more money,” she said.
When Coun. Mike Campol suggested he would like to see the hotel tax raised to three per cent, Glazer said she will be meeting with the members of the motel and hotel association soon and will bring up the idea of a possible increase.
The current two per cent tax will likely remain in place until the current five-year deal expires in a couple of years, but she will see if there’s a willingness to increase the tax by one per cent as part of a new contract, said Glazer.
The effort to draw snowbirds to Osoyoos has been successful over the past several years, but these visitors don’t pay the MRDT during their stays in local hotels, said Glazer.
“Having these snowbirds not pay the MRDT has been a challenge,” she admitted.
When it was suggested that snowbirds be forced to pay the two per cent tax during their stay in Osoyoos hotels and motels, Glazer said the provincial government would likely not approve.
“This might prove to be very difficult,” she said. “I just don’t think the provincial government is going to have an appetite for this.”
A new economic development website was launched in September and planned improvements will include updated content, Google analytics for each month’s activity, a newsletter and database building component, she said.
The annual Oyster Fest organized by DO in April was again a huge success as visitation for the month increased by 48 per cent over the previous year, she said.
A new projects manager has also been hired and her main responsibility will be to manage DO projects and events, including the upcoming Devour! festival.