Even with rain, Kelowna hotels expect a banner year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna News

Even with rain, Kelowna hotels expect a banner year

FILE PHOTO - Gyro beach, Kelowna.

KELOWNA - Everything shows growth in the hotel/motel world in Kelowna this year as rain is more attractive than forest fires.

After two bad summer tourism seasons because of smoke filled skys due to forest fires, every indication is that this could be the best year for hotel occupancy since the last big expansion in rooms more than a decade ago..

Statistics compiled by Tourism Kelowna don't yet include numbers for this summer but they do show that even 2018 was a banner year for most months, although hotels took a hit in August and September.

“We are having a very good year, like 90%-plus occupancy,” Don Culic, vice-president of the Kelowna Hotel Motel Association told iNFOnews.ca. “August, last year, was terrible with the smoke. We were down to, maybe 70 per cent in August.”

Culic is general manager of Holiday Park Resort so his occupancy rates may be a bit higher than the average for Kelowna, but are not far off.

In a chart provided by Tourism Kelowna, steady growth in occupancy rates have occurred from 2012 to 2019.

August was the busiest month of the year at 83.5 per cent occupancy in 2012, growing to a peak of 91.7 per cent in 2016. That took hits of more than six per cent in each of the last two years, so it was down to 79.5 per cent last August, the lowest since 2012.

Despite those two bad summers, the average annual occupancy rate has grown from 51.8 per cent in 2012 to 64.1 per cent in 2016 before dropping to 63.7 in each of the last two years.

Even the two slowest months, December and January, have shown marked improvements. Both months only had 29.5 per occupancy rates in 2012. Those have grown to more than 40 per cent.

“People are doing a better job of marketing the city year-round,” Stan Martindale, manager or the Ramada and a past president of the hotel association, said. “In the past, all our business was three months of the year and that was it. Now, just as one example, the wineries are open year-round so you can go winery touring year-round. There are a lot more trail systems available in the winter. There’s snowshoe trails available. There’s cross-country ski trails. It’s just a factor that there’s a lot more to do.”

That’s a good thing, given that there are more than 100 new hotel rooms being built right now and another 174 proposed for the Westcorp project downtown at the foot of Queensway Avenue.

That means it will be a challenge to keep those occupancy rates up.

“I bet you there isn’t more than two days so far this year that I’ve been completely full,” Martindale said.

More rooms on the market in coming years could make full occupancy harder to achieve.

And while high profile accommodation like the Grand Okanagan Resort, Manteo Resort and the Westcorp projects are right on the waterfront, that’s not why many people come to Kelowna, Martindale said.

“It really depends on the person,” he said. “Our clients are coming for baseball tournaments, for soccer tournaments. They’re coming here for winery tours, for hiking, for mountain biking. The lake isn’t the only attraction we have. So, to have most of the hotels not on the water, I don’t think that’s a detriment because we certainly have lots of parks if you want to have that type of vacation, if you want to be on the water.”

As for the rain, unlike smoke that lingered for weeks last year, it lasts only for a short while.

“Even this weekend, it rained a little bit,” Martindale said. “When it wasn’t raining it was beautiful.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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