Penticton businesses report boom in tourism bookings after some restrictions lifted this week


Boom in tourism bookings


Casey Richardson

Hotels, restaurants and wineries saw a large jump up in bookings after BC moved into stage two of its reopening plan this week, welcoming recreational travel for the province and ending restrictions between health regions.

The provincial government announced on Monday that BC was transitioning to the next phase, effective Tuesday — the earliest date possible in.

“Since the COVID restrictions for the 16 of June have been lifted, we have experienced a lot of phone calls, which is exciting for us and the staff. We expect to be between 90 and 100 per cent full for all of July and August. We’re excited to see what’s going to be happening after the post COVID-era of the last 14 to 16 months for sure,” Billy Coles, co-owner and GM of Hotel Penticton said.

“We saw an immediate boost in bookings, the phone has been running off the hook for, I think a couple of days now. And it’s been really clear to the staff as well, we went from like, second gear to fifth gear, and literally in one day. So for the rest of the weekend, in fact, we have over 100 bookings, every service, so it’s busy,”Michael Ziff, the food and beverage manager for Poplar Grove said.

For Hillside Winery, bookings in their restaurant and wine tasting room have been coming in ‘fast and furious,’ according to the Director of food and beverage, Lisa Henderson.

“Both are looking very busy. Reservations are definitely recommended…We actually have had a few bigger groups that we just don’t have the room for. So lots of groups are out and about. And we’re kind of limiting how many we’re actually taking. So we have had to juggle a little bit, but we can usually get you in on a different evening,” she explained.

Businesses are having to turn people away due to being fully booked.

“I think Penticton has become a little bit of the palm springs of Canada, so many people are calling, especially on the weekends and the long weekends, looking for rooms. And unfortunately, we’re not even able to send them to other hotels because a lot of folks are just booked on those weekends,” Coles added.

And while some businesses are struggling with getting staff hired now that tourism season is back, others are prepped and ready to go.

“This is my ninth season here at Hillside. We have a very dedicated crew that’s actually knocking on my door in spring going, ‘When are we open?’ So it’s fantastic, they are ready…And it’s really, really nice to have those same faces come back every year,” Henderson said.

“We’re actually quite good for staff. I know it’s not easy, in lots of places. I’ve talked to a lot of colleagues in the industry, whether it be in the tasting room or restaurants and some people have been having some issues staffing up. Luckily, I did it in advance. I’m tight, but I’m there. If I had any less, it would be problematic,” Ziff explained.

The outlook for tourism is strong throughout the summer months, and even extending into fall.

“I joked with my wife today that I’ll probably see her in October. So I’m guessing it’s going to be right through till harvest too,” Ziff said.

Henderson added that everyone coming in is in a positive mood,

“I think everybody is really happy. The energy of everybody is almost that little bit of relief. And it’s kinda like getting back to normal. I think it feels good.”

Okanagan wineries taking pandemic seriously: WorkSafeBC


Wineries get thumbs up

WorkSafeBC is giving BC Interior wineries the thumbs up for their COVID-19 safety plans.

The provincial government agency conducted an on-site inspection blitz between May 10 and June 4.

The inspections and consultations confirmed that up-to-date COVID-19 safety plans were in place and implemented effectively, and controls are implemented to protect workers from COVID-19 transmission.

Officers were deployed to conduct on-site inspections, and occupational health and safety consultants contacted additional employers by phone to review employers’ obligations and COVID-19 safety plans. The focus was on key measures including occupancy limits, ensuring worker health checks designed to prevent sick workers entering workplaces are implemented, enforcing social distancing practices, and using barriers and masks where required.

The inspections focused on wineries, cideries, and craft breweries with tasting rooms:

  • Two prevention officers participated in the initiative
  • 48 inspections were conducted
  • 32 consultations were conducted
  • 100% of the inspections were conducted on-site
  • All inspections and consultations were conducted in the interior health region
  • 2% of inspections resulted in orders – two total orders were issued

Kelowna business taking plastics from the public to recycle into new products


A new way to recycle

The Rogerie has grown by rescuing plastics directly from landfills and transforming them into 100 per cent renewable products.

But starting Monday, the local business will start accepting clean household plastics from the public. Things like HTP (high technology plastic) or PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol, a food-safe plastic) will be accepted and turned into new products. All you have to do is bring your washed plastics to their location at 103-460 Doyle Avenue, and they’ll do the rest.

“We’ll take it, wash it a second time to make sure it’s really clean, and then we’ll grind it up and use it in our injection molding machine,” said Angela Rogers, the co-founder of The Rogerie.

Currently Angela and her husband Brady sell products such as various planter pots, cups, stemless wine glasses, mugs and teapots and kitchen composters. Angela says the idea to start this business all came to fruition after their wedding.

“We knew we wanted to do something creative, and it was actually after our wedding that we saw how much plastic we had accumulated from gifts and moving so we knew we wanted to do something with it all. We got a little 3D printer that Brady had, and he designed a little planter and we took it to the farmers market. We received a ton of positive reactions and it kind of just grew from there,” said Angela.

The Rogerie previously operated a pop-up location at Orchard Park for six weeks last year, but have now found a permanent home at the downtown Innovation Centre.

Angela mentioned that they have several products in the works that they are putting the final touches on, and to keep an eye out for them this summer. You can see the 3D printers in action starting next week at the store when they add a dozen machines.

Slower or reduced service likely due to worker shortages this summer


Summer of self-serve

Housekeeping only on arrival and departure at hotels, more self-serve options at restaurants, and smaller menus.

These are some of the impacts visitors to Kelowna and other tourism destinations in the Thompson-Okanagan should brace for this summer.

“Businesses will be struggling to give you the service they want to give you,” said Ellen Walker-Matthews, Acting President and CEO of Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association. “Just relax and enjoy the moment and understand it might be a little bit of a slower service than you expected in the past.”

“I think there’s been a fair amount of anxiety, especially in the last couple of weeks”, said Arun Subramanian of go2HR. The company helps recruit employees for the tourism industry in the Okanagan. “There’s a huge pent-up demand out there, so they’re going to start seeing visitors coming probably in droves, as the expectation goes, especially in some of the resorts.”

To attract workers, businesses are going to have to get creative.

“Are you offering flexibility for your workforce? You often create work schedules that are beneficial to the business or the employer, but are you creating work schedules that can be a little more beneficial to your employees?” asked Subramanian. “Sometimes it may mean using two employees for one job because it will help you attract people who can work a certain number of hours.”

He also suggests restaurants consider more self-serve options and reducing their menus to take pressure off the kitchen.

Walker-Matthews advises people to be prepared for reduced service. “You might not get housekeeping every day when you’re travelling this year, because it just might not be possible.

The shortages are right across the board. “It’s front-desk, housekeeping, cooks, all the back-of-the-house jobs,” she said. “As well as when we talk to our wine industry, they’re having difficulty in the wine centres getting people to do tasting rooms.”

Should You Start Saving for a Down Payment or Continue Renting?




Image: kitzcorner /

It takes homebuyers an average of seven years to save up for a 20% down payment. As a tenant, you’ve probably asked yourself if it’s better to spend that time continuing to rent or whether to start putting money aside for your future home. Number crunching and prospecting the market play an essential role, but they’re not the only factors that your decision should hinge on. Here are a few things worth considering before you start making plans.

How Much Do You Need to Save?

Start by crunching the numbers. As a potential homebuyer, you most likely already know that it’s best to have a 20% down payment ready. Not only will this reduce your loan amount, but it will also remove the burden of mortgage insurance required by lenders.

Look up the average down payment for the area and home type that might interest you. For better or worse, the amount will fluctuate in the coming years, but you can use it as a starting point. Assuming that it will take you around seven years to save up that amount, break down the figures into periodic installments. How much would you need to set aside each month, and how does that figure compare to how much you’re able to save at the moment?

Assess Your Current Debts

A mortgage loan is likely to be the most significant debt you will ever owe. So before you embark on this loan, it’s wise to settle any smaller debts first. Whether it’s student loans, car loans, credit card debt, even medical expenses, take the time to assess how paying them off will impact your ability to set money aside for the down payment. Paying off high-interest debts should take priority, but at the same time, you should avoid straining your budget.

Factor in Other Types of Savings

Before you start setting money aside for a down payment, ask yourself if there are more pressing savings that need your attention. One thing you should prioritize is your emergency fund. It is recommended that you should have enough money set aside to cover between 3 and 6 months’ worth of living expenses.

Don’t forget about the future either. It’s often advised that you save money for your retirement first and then for a down payment. Juggling both at the same time is rarely feasible, so it’s best to decide in advance which one you should prioritize.

Consider Your Career Plans

The amount you can save each month is tied to your current expenses and how much you earn. It’s worth determining whether you will be able to keep putting money aside at the same rate you are now or if that amount is likely to drop. Also, ask yourself how your job is likely to change in the years to come.

Day-to-day expenses are lower if you’re working from home and not spending money on commuting. But what happens if you can’t work remotely? Similarly, a career change or a costly relocation to another city for work can also alter your plans.

Buying to Invest vs. Buying to Live

How do you see your future house: as an investment or somewhere to live? If your goal is to find a dream home and spend the rest of your life living in it, switching from renting to buying is a good call. But if you think of a house as an investment opportunity, spending the next seven years saving up for a down payment is a risky financial undertaking.

A house is not a liquid asset. To tap into the equity, you need to sell your home. And in order to save enough equity so that there’s some payoff to the sale, you need to live in the house for another five years. If your long-term plans focus on investments, ask yourself whether you might be better off continuing to rent and using your remaining funds on liquid assets.

Don’t Rule Out Renting-to-Own

Rent-to-own properties can be a good middle ground if you’re renting a property you like and planning to live there a long time. In this case, you will pay a bit more in rent, but that extra money is factored in towards your down payment for buying the property at the end of the lease. This kind of agreement can work in your favor if you think you’ll find it challenging to save for a down payment on top of paying rent or if you need some time to improve your credit score.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be deemed as legal, financial or investment advice or solicitation of any kind. Before purchasing real estate or insurance, always consult with a licensed attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent and real estate broker.


Is Buying Really Cheaper Than Renting?

man thinking in front of laptop

Image: fizkes /

One of the biggest questions among would-be homeowners is whether it’s cheaper to continue renting or to buy a house. Knowing the answer to this complex question can make the difference between using the local market to your advantage or overstretching your finances. But are there any hard and fast rules applicable across the board? In this post, we’ll take a closer look at recent figures and try to find an answer to this age-old question.

Saving for a 20% Down Payment

The main hurdle all homebuyers face is saving up for a down payment on their home. And yet, there’s a significant gap between homebuyers’ expectations and reality.

One of our recent studies found that, although many Millennials hope to buy a house within a year, they still grossly underestimate the actual costs. The U.S. national average for a down payment is $62,000, yet 40% of Millennials expect it to be closer to $10,000. What’s more, 61% had less than that in savings, while 14% had no savings at all.

When drawing out a savings plan for a down payment, it’s important to set a realistic figure but also factor in other expenses. Can you continue paying rent while simultaneously saving for a home, putting money into an emergency fund, paying off high-interest debts, or setting money aside for retirement?

Many experts recommend using the 50-30-20 budgeting rule: spend 50% of your income on essentials, allocate 30% for leisure and save the remaining 20%. Take the time to determine early on whether that 20% of your income can accommodate all your savings needs.

Don’t forget to take the hidden costs of home buying into account. From appraisals and inspections to closing costs and agent fees, there’s more to budgeting for a home than just saving for the down payment.

Rent vs. Mortgage Affordability

It’s essential to assess how local market fluctuations will impact your housing budget in the long run. One of our reports highlighted that mortgage affordability has worsened in 15 out of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. in the past decade. As a result, homeowners now need to pay more than 30% of their income on mortgage, which is higher than the figure recommended by experts. According to the study, in the most unaffordable cities, homeowners need to boost their income by up to $43,567 to avoid being cost-burdened.

At the same time, the rise in income is nowhere near enough to meet the increase in home prices, and in some cases, the difference between home price growth and income growth exceeds 50%.

Similarly, changes in the rental market pack their own share of good and bad news. According to RENTCafé, rents have increased in 13 of the 30 largest U.S. cities, yet they’ve decreased or stagnated in 18. Another encouraging finding for tenants is that rates dropped in all of the top 10 most expensive large cities for renters.

So, depending on the local figures, it might be cheaper to rent than buy in some areas, while it can be more accessible to buy than rent in others.

Crunching the Numbers: Rent vs. Mortgage Payments

One of the most common arguments used in the rent-vs-buy debate is that if you can afford to pay a certain amount in rent, you can afford to pay the same amount in mortgage. In reality, however, budgeting is rarely that straightforward. Here are two rules that can help you better assess your budget:

  • The 30% rule: aim to spend no more than 30% of your gross income on housing costs;
  • The 5% rule: apart from mortgage, expect to pay an additional 5% of your property value on irrecuperable costs: property taxes (1%), property maintenance (1%) and interest rates (3%).

If your housing budget is within that 30% sweet spot, while also factoring in irrecuperable costs, then switching from rent to mortgage is something worth considering. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, as a tenant, your utilities are often included in the rent, and you don’t have to contend with property taxes, HOA fees, maintenance and upkeep, and so on.

What Money Can’t Buy

The decision to buy or rent hinges heavily on their financial implications. Yet, there are some arguments in favor of each that no amount of budgeting can take into account.

On the one hand, renting comes with a lot of flexibility and freedom to relocate, depending on your lifestyle or career choices. You don’t need to worry about a drop in property value, the stress of committing to a lengthy mortgage or having your home foreclosed due to unemployment.

On the other hand, owning your home provides you with a greater feeling of stability. There are tax breaks you can take advantage of, investment opportunities in the form of renting out, and a gradual build-up of equity.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all scheme, and the decision to buy or rent is a personal one. But before making up your mind, be sure to consult a financial professional for your specific case.


City of Kelowna asks residents to water young neighbourhood trees


Help out thirsty trees

With an unprecedented drought hitting the Central Okanagan this spring, the City of Kelowna is asking residents to help out local thirsty trees.

Earlier this week, Agriculture Canada declared a “severe drought” in the Central Okanagan, and local flora may be having a tough time.

“We’re currently experiencing an unprecedented drought and not all of our trees are irrigated,” said Andrew Hunsberger, urban forestry supervisor with the City of Kelowna.

“We’re asking homeowners to help us care for the young trees planted on streets and boulevards near their homes. By working together to keep these trees healthy, we can all do our part to grow and nurture our urban tree canopy in Kelowna.”

Hunsberger says young trees need about a bucket of water every week for the first three years of their lives, before their roots extend deep enough in the ground.

“Water is a precious resource and we need to think carefully about how and when we use it,” said Hunsberger. “However, Kelowna’s tree canopy is also an incredibly important part of our city and will pay us back with shade that will reduce water use in the future.”

The city is asking residents to slowly release water at the base of young trees for at least 15 minutes one to two times per week, during cooler times of the day.

Hunsberger notes the city typically does not get enough rain to keep trees hydrated.

Penticton Art Gallery hosting digital art exhibit by Buffy Sainte-Marie


A pioneer of digital art

The Penticton Art Gallery will soon be showcasing the works of an Indigenous legend this summer in a digital media exhibition.

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Indigenous Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician, Oscar-winning composer, visual artist, and social activist. Her team approached the art gallery for a show after seeing the success of the Bob Ross show that ran last summer.

“They were interested to know just how that sort of came about and then Paul was talking to them about Buffy. And that just sort of snowballed into this exhibition,” McKaila Ferguson, collections and communications manager for the Penticton Art Gallery said.

“So there’s a lot of discussion still happening about some of these things. But essentially, we’re getting 17 of her digital artworks and in the exhibition will also be a fair bit of memorabilia.”

Ferguson explained that digital artwork is created on computers, where artists use different applications to take photos of something and then manipulate the image, or start from scratch completely to create the piece, which is then printed on to paper or onto canvas.

“We’re really excited to be showing her artwork…All the pieces are huge, they’re larger than life.”

The gallery also plans to paint the exhibition walls a dark colour to make the pieces pop.

“A lot of her art is inspired by her activism and her music, so she’ll be hand writing some lyrics to her songs as well, which will be included in the exhibition,” Ferguson explained.

“Hopefully, we can do some digital or in person programming with Buffy, at the end of the exhibition. But of course it’s all COVID dependent. It’s really hard to plan this year, so we’ll see what happens at that. But we’re really excited to be showcasing some of her artwork and letting people know that among the many, many things she does, she is also a very talented artist.”

The exhibit will also include pieces that discuss residential schools.

“A large part of our mandate is to be working with local Indigenous people and to be promoting Indigenous artwork,” Ferguson said.

“We try to bring bigger national issues around Indigenous topics to Penticton for discussion. In the summer we often have exhibitions, with sort of not really a heavier theme, but they get you thinking about something.”

Limited edition prints of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s visual work reside in permanent collections in the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, First Nations University, and the Tucson Art Museum, and have been exhibited at the Glenbow Museum, the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the Isaacs Gallery, the Walter Phillips Gallery, the Gallery for Contemporary and Indigenous Art (Tuscon), The Winnipeg Art Gallery and Gurevich Fine Art (Winnipeg), and private collections throughout North America.

The exhibit titled, A Survey of Works by a Pioneer of Digital Art: Buffy Sainte-Marie, will run from July 3 to Sept. 11 in the main gallery.

The gallery will be open seven days a week, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

West Kelowna country singer raises $45K with ‘Music Fest MS’


$45K for Music Fest MS

West Kelowna country singer Ben Klick’s third-annual “Music Fest MS” raised $45,360 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

In three years the event has now raised $115,142.

Due to COVID-19, the show was moved online to YouTube and streamed live for viewers across Canada.

Klick, founder and organizer, who also hosted and played the event, reached out to a star-studded lineup of country music artists and speakers spanning across Canada and the United States to take part in the event including Juno Award Winner, Jess Moskaluke, CCMA and Platinum selling artist, Aaron Goodvin, and others.

Klick was inspired to organize and perform Music Fest MS after his father’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis in June 2018.

“Once I received the news, I knew I wanted to do something to help. My family has always been extremely close, and it’s the least I could do to give back when they’ve all supported me over the years,” Klick said.

Donations to Music Fest MS stay open until October, the replay of the show is on Ben Klick’s YouTube channel, and you can learn more at