Pride-worthy provincial tourism numbers are panning out in Peachland, according to local officials.
The B.C. government reported last week the number of overnight international visitors is up across the province so far this year, on pace to easily exceed the eight per cent increase seen in 2015.
From January to May, 1,650,703 visitors came to the province, a 14-per-cent increase over the same period last year.
Visits from international destinations were up nearly five per cent.
Tourism supports approximately 19,000 businesses and 127,500 employees in B.C.
In Peachland, the number of guests at the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) is on the rise too, according to manager Joey Byatt.
“Our numbers are definitely up this year although we are seeing stronger numbers from Europe and the US, especially Germany and Switzerland, as opposed to strong numbers from Mexico and India [as the broader province is],” she said. “It’s hard to say [why], although it could be due to the fact that there are fewer people heading to the United States because of the high exchange rate. I have family who used to travel to the States every winter who have now bought a condo here in the Okanagan because the exchange rate makes it less desirable to travel south.”
The stats for Q1 are a bit of a wash since the VIC was closed in January and February, but in Q2 show the number of visitors jumped by nearly half from 2,700 to 4,006, dwarfing increases of 27 per cent and 12 per cent in the last two years, respectively.
Byatt is busy growing the VIC’s retail space and new gift shop stocked with locally made souvenirs and gift ideas from Okanagan artisans.
“If you or someone you know is an artist and interested in having your art on consignment in the Visitor Centre come on down and show us what you do.”
The VIC is also abuzz with plans to partner with the District of Peachland and the Peachland Historical Society to create a display that will highlight the importance of water to early industry, transportation, pioneer settlement and First Nations over the last 150 years.
“An interactive ‘water wall’ as it is coming to be known to us as would provide historic facts on mining, logging, trapping, and other industries lost to our community today,” Byatt said. “Information on First Nations and other early settlements, fir and trapping routes, farming, orchards and the transportation of products and people would be easily accessible by all.”
The district has applied for Canada 150 funding for the water wall.
The VIC is also working with the Westbank First Nations Museum to develop and create a First Nations display that will tell the story of the Spirit of the Lake within the Legends of the Lake Interpretive Centre.
They’re right on the provincial pulse here, as the statistics show Aboriginal tourism more than doubled in value last year to $42 million.
“2016 is shaping up to be an excellent year for Aboriginal cultural tourism in B.C.,” CEO and chair of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia, Brenda Baptiste said in a press release. “There is a strong desire from the international markets to add a world-class Aboriginal experience to their travels and we are able to fill the demand.”