If you thought you saw fewer red plates this year, you're right - InfoNews

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If you thought you saw fewer red plates this year, you're right

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August 14, 2019 - 6:30 AM

If you thought you'd seen fewer red plates on the roads earlier this year you were right.

Numbers released from the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association shows Alberta traffic was down for the first five months of 2019 compared to the year previous.

While fewer red plates on the road may mean fewer drivers to (unfairly) grumble about, Albertans make up roughly 20 per cent of the region's tourists and in an industry worth $1.4 billion a year, their reluctance to travel to the Thompson Okanagan would surely be felt.

From the beginning of January to the end of May the number of Albertans who spent one night in the region was down from 2018 by anywhere between seven to 26 per cent.

While our provincial politicians sparred over pipelines, Predator Ridge Resort posted billboards in Calgary and Edmonton that read 'Our love is real' as part of a 'We Love Alberta' marketing campaign.

However, they don't appear to have stayed away long.

"They're here now," Penticton's Poplar Grove Winery vice president Chris Holler told iNFOnews.ca. "Our parking lot still has a lot of Alberta licence plates."

What spurred Albertans back to the region isn't quite as clear, but statistics show the red plates returned in June surpassing their 2018 numbers by 24 per cent.

Kelowna Hotel Motel Association vice-president Don Culic agreed with the stats saying he thought he'd seen fewer Albertans earlier in the season.

The tourism associations numbers - based on data from cell phone towers — indicate that domestic tourism was down six per cent in the first half of 2019, but international visitors grew by 39 per cent making the overall number of tourists in the region on par with 2018. Technically there were 600 more visitors — a 0.01 per cent increase.

Anecdotally, Culic agrees with the stats and said the Kelowna Holiday Park Resort, which he's managed for nearly 20-years, did see fewer Canadian tourists and more international visitors earlier this year.

Regardless of where the tourists are from, Culic is happy as his numbers are up for the spring and summer by 11 per cent.

Davison Orchards Country Village marketing assistant Kelly MacIntosh said the popular Vernon attraction hadn't noticed a change in the demographics of visitors since they opened for the season May 1.

"There are lots of red plates here," she said. "It's definitely obvious now that we've got people from all over the world, but I don't know if that's changed from the recent past."

While some have complained about the weather early this summer, MacIntosh said the weather had been good for the apples and the orchard should hopefully have a bumper crop.

Holler said while the winery's tasting room is open year-round, visitors early in the season are few and far between, so I decline in Albertans and a rise in international tourists, wouldn't really be noticed.

"They're here," Holler said.

And that appears to be the most important thing.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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