Big ‘tourism de force’ underway in Oliver

Big ‘tourism de force’ underway in Oliver

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Jill Lawson, Gail Scott, Beth Garrish, Tony Munday, Carol Sheridan and Linda Bolton are OTA’s new board.

Judging by the numbers, the Oliver Tourism Association (OTA) is growing by leaps and bounds.

But wait until its new ideas start hatching.

The recent annual general meeting at the Oliver Visitor Centre was a “tourism de force.”

Vice-chair Beth Garrish started off by saying the centre saw nearly 13,000 visitors in 2015. Twenty-seven per cent of these people were local, while 40 per cent were from BC.

“It’s mind boggling who finds us in this little town,” she said.

A big thank you was given to all of the knowledgeable volunteers who make it work, particularly centre manager Rhoda Brooks.

Garrish pointed out that a new event is coming in April– the Wine Capital Downtown Art Extravaganza. This event, from 5-7 pm, will showcase local artists, businesses and wine.

Association chair Tony Munday reminded the audience about visiting the website at winecapitalofcanada.com for event listings and business directory. Last year the site received more than 22,000 hits, averaging over two minutes in length.

Munday also noted their WorldHost program trained more than 300 employees in the “fundamentals” of customer service. And starting in April, OTA will teach a new half-day workshop called Service Across Cultures.

Munday encouraged people to use the Wine Capital branding logos to market and promote their business.

He pointed out OTA’s strategic plan, which includes financial independence, a communications plan, cultural tourism, sports adventure tourism, and a salmon interpretive loop.

It was noted that Wine Capital of Canada has 1,326 Facebook fans, with an average weekly reach of more than 550 people. It also has more than 2,000 Tweets and 2,208 followers. A new Instagram account shows nearly 150 followers.

The association has hired a team to execute its new geocaching growth plan; there are now 44 geocaches placed in and around Oliver. There have been 1,463 geocache visits to the Wine Capital of Canada, and their “travel bugs” have travelled a combined total of 199,581 kilometres (over half the distance to the moon).

What’s new?
As part of its Wine Capital Outreach program, people will see a team of Oliver tourism “ambassadors” roaming the community to interact with visitors.

Munday said these ambassadors will have iPads to be able to immediately search for and retrieve information on tourism operators and services.

Munday also noted that an additional OTA employee will be hired – a visitor outreach program coordinator. In other news, Garrish said OTA has taken over organizing the Sister City program with Lake Chelan, WA, and Bandai, Japan. Last August OTA hosted 10 students and two adults from Bandai.

Garrish said they are hoping to organize a trip for a local group of tourism operators who want to exchange ideas with a sister city.

The Lake Chelan relationship has been in existence for a long time, but the relationship has kind of fallen by the wayside, Garrish said.

“We have made contact with the CEO of their tourism arm (through the Chamber of Commerce) and they have confirmed a desire to re-establish that relationship.” Munday revealed OTA’s new bike and hike trail maps for the South Okanagan, as well as Oliver’s new official visitor guide, in partnership with the Oliver Chronicle.

Another partnership, this time with the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, will see OTA take over the reigns of the Festival of the Grape.

Chamber president Corrie Adolph said this would free up a lot of time to focus on helping local businesses succeed. Munday’s final reveal was a new cultural tourism video to promote Oliver. The unedited version features the following: Dawn MacRae and her horses, Chef Chris Van Hooydonk, artist Sally Franks, Okanagan Gleaners, Okanagan Portuguese Club dancers, Dubh Glas Distillery and a Kabaddi tournament.

Once the video was finished, Munday exclaimed, “Excuse my language, but holy crap, this is awesome!”

By Lyonel Doherty

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