New federal tourism strategy aims to increase Thompson-Okanagan shoulder season

Canada’s federal tourism minister says her government’s new tourism strategy will help grow the industry by building on the region’s shoulder and winter seasons.

The strategy also hopes to create more opportunities for careers in the industry.

Melanie Joly spoke to members of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and local dignitaries at a special lunch at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre today, May 23.

She was there to talk about the new federal tourism strategy, unveiled on May 21, which includes $58.5 million in funding through the Canadian Experiences Fund to enhance Canada’s tourism products and services. The ambitious plan hopes to grow the tourism sector by 25 per cent by 2025.

Other initiatives include increasing international visitors to the country by over one million through the winter and shoulder seasons, as well as a strategy to move visitors out of the major cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver into more rural areas of the country.

Rural regions such as the Thompson-Okanagan would be able to access the fund to diversify local economies dependent on mining or forestry into more tourist related ventures. She said the region’s “fantastic winter activities” could also receive a boost from the funding, which is also intended to build indigenous tourism opportunities.

The strategy also hopes to address the issue of the seasonal nature of Canada’s tourist industry in an attempt to attract more people to the industry as a career choice. The strategy hopes to create 54,000 new jobs in the industry, as well as provide some financial protection for seniors who wish to continue working in the sector.

Joly says Ottawa has been taking the industry for granted, traditionally seeing tourism an industry that supports about 10 per cent of the country’s workers, as an entity that will take care of itself.

In the meantime, she says other nations such as Japan, Iceland and Australia have taken the industry much more seriously. Joly says in a sector booming around the world, Canada has dropped from a top 10 position to 18th in the world for attracting tourists.

“We need to make sure people can benefit from growth in the industry and invest in it,” she says.

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