The wine industry in the Okanagan is a billion-dollar industry in which tourism plays a huge role. The industry has garnered accolades locally, then provincially and internationally.
A new private motorsports club is about to open on Black Sage Road between Osoyoos and Oliver.
Our family campgrounds are disappearing, converted to summer RV condos. Houses are being bought as second properties, either to be rented at exorbitant prices over the summer months or reserved for infrequent use.
Snowbirds are flocking to the community at record levels.
The South Okanagan has arrived, sharing a status enjoyed by few places in the world as a playground for the wealthy.
Osoyoos is a dedicated tourist destination, offering accommodations that range from posh RV spots to five-star resorts with a mixture of bed and breakfasts, hotels and motels thrown in for good measure.
Our visitors have for a long time come from Alberta, but with the collapse of the energy sector and the fires of recent times this has changed to a degree.
Now we market much more to the Fraser Valley populace.
So, you’re asking yourself, what’s your point, Gaye?
Well, when you have to offer such wonderful accommodations, you want to deliver equally wonderful service.
If that does not happen, people will become dissatisfied with less then promised service.
And they will go elsewhere, taking that dollar value with them.
In the past, recruiting to fill service positions in our community has taken place within the Okanagan and to date it has not proven overly successful. Now, we look worldwide for workers, but that isn’t solving the problem either.
Why you ask?
Well, when asking folks to come and get the experience of a lifetime, working in wine country, building a resume and perhaps forwarding a career in related industries,
there must be a place for these workers to live while they’re here.
That’s a need that’s getting more and more difficult to fill. And because there aren’t enough places for people to live, we do not have a big enough labour base to draw from locally.
This is a problem that affects everyone, not just a few select, high-end operators. Ask some of your business friends downtown if they have enough people to properly manage their shops and services.
So knowing the problem — and, yes, it is a problem — would you not expect that we as a community would be doing something to fix it?
Why is it the tourism sector has not taken the lead and developed a plan to expand accommodations for workers?
This is not an issue that cropped up overnight; it is a problem that has existed for more than five years now. And it is the responsibility of everyone benefiting from the dollar value coming into our community to raise a voice to fix it.
Otherwise, if advertised service is not delivered as promised, people will go where it is. It is that simple.
Spend the dollars and invest in proper employment lodging now — or lose more than expected in the long term.