September 30, 2014 - 2:27 PM
PENTICTON - Cycling is a popular hobby and sport in the South Okanagan but it could soon be a major tourism driver.
City representatives introduced the idea of Penticton as a province-wide cycling destination to provincial ministers at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler last week. But Tourism Penticton, an entity of the city, already has plans in the works to promote Penticton and the surrounding South Okanagan area as a cycling hot spot.
The priority right now is creating trail maps that cyclists, whether they’re leisure riders or serious athletes, can use to plan their trips, says Chris Bower, executive director of tourism. The maps will be available at the Visitor Centre, online and on smart phones, so they are easily accessible for riders, he says.
Marketing efforts will target leisure riders, but ultimately the trail and cycling information can be used by serious athletes or anyone training for one of the big cycling events, such as the Granfondo or Challenge Penticton, Bower says.
There’s a big cross section between off-roading trails and urban road paths, he says, and the maps will outline all of them. The maps are just the first step in the marketing plan, which Tourism Penticton (with the efforts of the Penticton Hospitality Association and the city’s economic development team) will build on in the years to come.
Bower plans to focus general tourism marketing efforts on all seasons, and not just summer—the season Penticton is best known for.
“More and more people are looking for outdoor activities,” says Bower. We need to take advantage of the warm, dry Okanagan climate that lets the trails stay open well into the fall, he says.
And the efforts are as much for the locals as they are for tourists, or “visitors” as Bower prefers. Tourists don’t have to be people travelling to Penticton from out of town, he says. They could be people coming to Penticton from Kelowna or Summerland for the day and we need to be prepared to offer them the information they need.
Tourism Penticton is doing a lot of the work “in-house” which saves a lot of money that can be used on other initiatives, Bower says. The city-funded society is improving its website and making information and tools more accessible, and there has been an emphasis on tourism staff handling social media.
Bower is currently in the process of putting together a budget for 2015, which will be submitted to the city for approval. Penticton Hospitality Association, which receives provincial tax money, is working with Tourism Penticton on marketing efforts and will support funding, Bower says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014