OROVILLE – Bill Robertson, guest speaker at last Friday’s Oroville Chamber of Commerce meeting, recommended more self-promotion of Oroville to take advantage of the growing number of Canadian tourists and ‘Snowbirds’ just across the border.
“With Labor Day come and gone most of the tourists have come and gone,” said Robertson, a member of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, which includes the towns of Osoyoos, Oliver and Okanogan Falls, B.C.
Robertson, a real estate agent from Osoyoos, with a home in Oroville as well, also is a member of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce and attends Oroville’s meetings regularly. He volunteered to give a summary on this past summer’s tourism and tourist accommodation just north of the border in Osoyoos.
“The Watermark is a new $65 million resort hotel that has 153 high end units. Spirit Ridge on the reservation has 226 high-end rooms, 100 of which were just added this summer and Walnut Beach Resort has 112 rooms. I’d say there are about 1000 upscale rooms in the area and perhaps another 1000 less upscale units,” said Robertson. “Summers are great in Osoyoos, winters, not so much.”
The resort hotels and other motels were about at 100 percent capacity on weekends and about 80 percent on weekdays, according to Robertson.
“For the weekdays that’s down some, but maybe it is because another 500 rooms were added this summer. There’s not a lot of American tourists lately and that’s probably because of the economies of both countries… discretionary income is less,” he said.
However, less discretionary income resulted in Canadians sticking closer to home on their vacations and not traveling as much to the United States, but taking advantage of resort communities like Osoyoos.
“Generally speaking the hotel industry in Osoyoos is good, but business on a whole is mixed. Generally the whole town has faired the recession fairly well… we’re kind of recession immune,” said Robertson.
Robertson said winters in Osoyoos have seen a change as well with more “Snowbirds,” Canadians who used to travel to the southwestern United States for the winter are now staying in places like Osoyoos with its mild winters “mostly for medical reasons.”
“I think there is a good opportunity for businesses in Oroville to take advantage of a lot of those who stay in Osoyoos. There are a lot of Canadians who don’t cross the border because they perceive it as a hassle, especially those from Vancouver who have had to deal with an hour or more wait times when crossing on the west side of the state,” he said. “This might be an opportunity for business in your town, especially in winter when the Snowbirds are looking for something to do.”
In Osoyoos, Robertson explained, there is a two percent tax on accommodations that helps raise about $100,000 a year for promotion of tourism.
Robertson said the more even dollar between the two countries, the recent addition of the value added tax in British Columbia and the lower prices are all attractive to Canadians looking for a deal.
“The cost of gas, groceries and eating are all less in Oroville,” he said, adding that the Oroville Chamber should consider getting their members together to advertise some of the advantages of coming to Oroville to do their shopping and eating out.