New marketing strategy needed to keep tourists coming, says Penticton council candidate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New marketing strategy needed to keep tourists coming, says Penticton council candidate

Penticton cafe owner Christopher Millin has some ideas about reinvigorating Penticton's tourism industry, which he says has been in decline over the past three summers.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Christopher Millin
October 10, 2018 - 4:11 PM

PENTICTON - Penticton council candidate Christopher Millin says the city needs to adapt its tourism marketing to reflect changing climate conditions in the valley.

Millin says he’s seen a decline in tourism over the past three years as owner and operator of the Saint Germain Cafe in Penticton, noting a steady decline in business over the past three summers.

“I hit a low this summer of 30 per cent below the summer of 2015,” he says. “If you speak to businesses beyond the 200 block of downtown you’ll hear similar tales of decline."

Millin believes it wasn’t only the smoky conditions of August that played into this summer’s decline in business. He says media coverage outside of Penticton also played a role.

He points to headline like: "Fires Burning out of Control in B.C.’s Okanagan" or "Fires and Flood Marks the New Normal".

"I wouldn’t want to visit if I read that,” he says.

Millin says the message from media outlets outside the region is that Penticton is under water or on fire.

“This has lead many who have made Penticton their summer destination to question the safety of getting here and has caused many of these travellers to cancel their plans,” he says.

"On a personal level I had to send photos of the city to a friend from Vancouver who was planning on coming up here over the August long weekend. He thought the fires might be too close to us and it wouldn’t be safe. Without my convincing photos, he wouldn’t have come up,” Millin says.

Millin wants to see a concerted effort by local media and government to inform people outside the region and the province that only select areas are affected and that the wineries, downtown core and the beaches are still open.

He believes the city needs to make it easier to bring in festivals, especially for the 20- to 34-year-old demographic.

"I was recently getting my hair cut and when I mentioned I was running for council six women all aged early 20s to mid-30s who were working in the salon said, 'please just make city fun again.' Two of them were in the planning stages of moving out of town, because there just wasn’t enough cultural stimulation here for them,” Millin says.

He would like to see planning begin to create a year-round tourist draw.

"Though craft breweries are wonderful, not everyone in town is into craft beer. Some people just want to dance. We need to make our small businesses feel supported through the winter months by bringing in events that will bring people to the city. We have world class ice rinks."

Millin says the city must change its reliance on tourism during the summer months.

“Without a shift of focus from city hall, we won’t just lose our tourism industry, we’ll lose a big piece of our identity,” he says.

Millin says it’s something he would focus heavily on if elected.

"So many of our livelihoods here in Penticton are tied to tourism. This needs to be taken seriously."

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