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Some waterfront businesses express concerns about Tourism Kelowna moving in

Nestled in an idyllic spot next to the lake, Ogopogo Parasail is worried about Tourism Kelowna moving in next door.

Tourism Kelowna, a not-for-profit society, plans to book and sell tickets for experiences and attractions.

Luke Weller, the owner of Ogopogo Parasail and a member of Tourism Kelowna, doesn’t think the organization should be competing with his business for sales.

“I think they’re effectively bringing the entire valley down to compete with us,” he said.

Weller pays a premium for rent near the water. He said his business heavily depends on walk-up traffic.

“They’re effectively giving my competition a ticket kiosk 35 metres away from my ticket kiosk.”

“We’re not concerned with them giving out information for other companies, the more the merrier. We’re just concerned about them competing for ticket sales and taking money,” he said.

Ayn Lexi is the owner-operator of Okanagan Adventures, an online booking service. She said under its new system, Tourism Kelowna will be infringing on her customers too.

“Now that they’re actually going to be booking adventures and activities in the Okanagan, including the north and the south Okanagan, they’re essentially going to be competing with their own stakeholders,” she said.

Tourism Kelowna expects the new visitor centre will have a positive impact on businesses, including those nearby.

“I think the advantage for these businesses that are 50 feet from the front door of the visitor centre is that they’re 50 feet from the front door of the visitor centre,” Thom Killingsworth, Tourism Kelowna’s board chairperson, said. “And our team’s going to refer them directly. It’s convenience.”

Under the new optional online booking system, Tourism Kelowna will charge businesses an eight to ten per cent commission, which will cover credit card fees and operating costs, Chris Lewis, Tourism Kelowna’s visitor experience manager, said.

“If they choose not to participate in the inventory system, then we will just book through their existing online channels or phone and book directly through them, and that has no commission,” he said.

Weller expressed concern that many of those on Tourism Kelowna’s board of directors may stand to profit under the new system.

“I feel like maybe some of the board members shouldn’t have voted because there’s a conflict of interest. Some of them will definitely be selling tickets down here,” he said.

Thom said the board of directors is member-based.

“There are stakeholders on the board for sure. It’s our goal to just move forward in the best interests of all of our stakeholders,” he said.

The new visitor centre is expected to open mid-2018.

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