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Central Okanagan tourism spending up significantly post-pandemic

Kelowna tourism valued at $2.4 billion, supports 12,630 jobs, according to new report from industry association
Hundreds flocked to Downtown Kelowna during a show & shine in August 2022.

A new report highlights just how important of an economic driver tourism is for the Central Okanagan.

The data, released by Tourism Kelowna, looks at the economic impact of tourism to the greater Kelowna area in 2022, as we emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. The research was conducted by InterVISTAS Consulting Inc.

The report shows that tourism directly supported 12,630 jobs, with $598 million in wages in 2022. That made it the fourth largest employer in the region. However, the number of jobs slipped 3% from before the pandemic.

Still, the industry as a whole grew 14% since 2018, and is now valued at $2.4 billion. Spending by visitors to the Central Okanagan also ballooned since the last report, up 22% to $540 million.

“Tourism continues to be one of the Central Okanagan’s leading industries and contributes to the growth and wellbeing of our economy,” says CEO & president of Tourism Kelowna, Lisanne Ballantyne.

“Our tourism industry generates new spending and direct job creation as visitors come and stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and take part in activities at local attractions. The ripple effects of this visitor economy support infrastructure and public services that benefit our city and region. It’s important to note, that as residents we benefit from these businesses, too, and can enjoy these amenities throughout the year, contributing to a stronger quality of life.”

According to the research, the industry contributes $226 million in tax revenue in 2022, an increase of 18% since 2018. That includes $19 million in municipal tax revenue. The rest went to the federal and provincial governments.

“Kelowna’s brand as a desirable travel destination remains strong, and this resiliency is reassuring as we continue to promote Kelowna nationally as a year-round travel destination,” says Ballantyne.

The 2022 Economic Impact of Tourism in the Greater Kelowna Area report found that accommodation providers (comprising of over 70 properties) and other tourism-related businesses (such as outdoor attractions, wineries, and arts, culture, and entertainment) accounted for 42% of the total direct tourism related employment in Kelowna, equal to approximately 3,700 jobs.

Tourism is the fourth biggest employer in the region, accounting for 8,900 persons. Health care and social assistance was tops at 15,000, followed by 12,300 and educational services at 9,500. The fifth leading employer in 2022 was manufacturing.

The full report prepared for Tourism Kelowna can be found here.

While tourism spending was up in 2022, the wildfires last summer led to a sharp drop in visitor numbers, especially in late August and early September.