Resort sees strong season start, expects busy winter

Region projected to have highest occupancy rates in province, with accommodation pacing ahead of pre-pandemic in Sun Peaks

After seeing success in its first few weeks of operation, Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) officials are expecting a busy season ahead.

Aidan Kelly, SPR’s chief marketing officer, said opening weekend went smoothly this year with COVID-19 restrictions lifted and no other challenges slowing visitation. He said snow conditions created additional excitement and the resort was able to open all three mountains and over 20 runs.

“This was the first sort of normal vibe we’ve had on opening for winter in three years so it was nice to get that back,” Kelly said. “People are obviously in a really good mood to be back sliding on the snow and you could instantly see a little bit more life to the village.”

He said the early season typically draws season pass holders, but there have also been guests from outside the local area. Particularly, SPR has had a high number of visitors from Ontario, Quebec and Seattle.

Kelly said the resort is seeing the early impact of its partnership with Ikon Collective, a multi-resort pass SPR joined this year. 

“Overall interest and knowledge of Sun Peaks as a destination is definitely growing,” Kelly said. “We’re cautiously optimistic just because there’s been different curveballs over the last few years thrown our way, but the general outlook is really positive.”

Arlene Schieven, president of Tourism Sun Peaks, said accommodation pacing for the winter is actually ahead of pre-pandemic numbers.

Schieven said it can be difficult to know exactly what the numbers will look like because there could be last minute bookings and cancellations. However, she said it seems like visitors are less afraid to book their trips well in advance, especially for the holidays.

Kelly said the international markets have bounced back as well.

“Recovery there is going to be ongoing with supply chain issues and flights,” Kelly said. “But we’re probably around 70 per cent of pre-covid booking levels from the international markets that are important to us like Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.”

Regionally, tourism numbers are also on the rise. The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association sent SPIN data that shows the region is expected to have the highest occupancy rates in the province, with revenue projected to exceed $8.7 million.

The busy winter ahead means many businesses across the region are worried about finding enough staff, but Kelly said SPR is in decent shape.

“It’s always tight in resort communities and a lot of it’s tied to housing availability,” Kelly said. “But we did see a strong rebound in terms of interest from the workforce this year and the teams seem to be off to a really good start.”

Overall, Kelly said SPR officials have been happy to see a more relaxed opening and are feeling good about the season ahead.

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