It looks like tourists will return, but there’s still a long way to go – Kelowna News

Tourism Kelowna expects a busy 2022 for its stakeholders, but that likely won’t be enough for them to offset the pandemic losses they’ve suffered over the past two years.

The organization released a report on Friday that reviews 2021 and looks ahead to 2022, and it feels good for the year ahead.

“Last year saw the early momentum come to a halt and additional challenges were imposed on our industry in the second half of the year,” said Tourism Kelowna President and CEO, Lisanne Ballantyne, in the report. “Despite a difficult 2021, the industry performed better than in the first year of the pandemic, but we know there is still a long way to go for a full recovery.”

There were approximately two million overnight visitors to the central Okanagan in 2021, which was an 18.2% increase from 2020. More than two-thirds of these visitors (68.5 %) were from British Columbia, largely because international travel was either banned or restricted. . Visitor spending increased in 2020, but was still below pre-pandemic levels.

Most other indicators improved in 2021 compared to 2020, but they were also nowhere near where they were before COVID-19 arrived and wildfires disrupted travel plans. Hotel occupancy increased by 6.1%, short-term rentals increased by 4.2% and airport traffic jumped by 12.5%.

Tourism Kelowna is seeing strong interest and regular bookings in the spring and summer for leisure or vacation travel, while meetings, events and conferences are also back. Tourism Kelowna, as it did before the pandemic, will continue to market the Central Okanagan as a four-season destination to enhance fall, winter and spring tourism.

“Our tourism industry and the businesses that make it up provide experiences, products and services that enhance lives here in Kelowna and the Central Okanagan,” Ballantyne said. “Last year we faced challenges like never before, but we fought hard to overcome them, we have more determination because of it and we are optimistic about the future.

“We are in a strong position for short-term recovery and long-term success.”

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