Lake Country Scenic Sip Trail – Showcasing Hidden Gems Along Hwy 97
Lake Country and area, between Vernon and Kelowna, is a hidden gem comprised of lush rolling hillsides rich with produce, expansive serene lake views and tranquil vistas as far as the eye can see. Almost half of the land is within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), with farming and wine tourism being vital contributors to the area’s heritage and the local economy. The common challenge for local businesses is enticing tourists and travelers to leave the highway and explore the many farmgate businesses and wineries that the Lake Country area has to offer.
Encouraging travellers to stop on their way to bigger centres and enjoy what Lake Country has to offer as a destination is a challenge that the District of Lake Country and its Chamber of Commerce have been grappling with since the community’s incorporation over 25 years ago. Add a global pandemic to the mix and the result was a huge decline in tourism traffic, which negatively affected local businesses, since 30% of Lake Country businesses rely on tourism.
With tourism showing signs of recovery, the District of Lake Country harnessed the power of digital technology along with old school advertising to develop a marketing plan to capture the attention of those itching to safely travel once again. Funding support from the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) allowed The District of Lake Country to accelerate their marketing plans in readiness for the upcoming tourist season but also to capture local day trippers.
The Lake Country team worked with a local marketing group to develop a community brand exposure plan that would generate a robust online presence and visual route markers throughout the region. A responsive and eye-catching website is currently being created to assist in providing visitor information on the area in conjunction with utilizing captivating imagery to showcase the community’s welcoming atmosphere. User friendly maps highlighting business locations, points of interest, parks and farm gate sales will allow visitors to plan and customize their travel routes along the Scenic Sip Trail.
Following the lead of other scenic routes within the Okanagan, Scenic Sip Trail signs have recently been placed throughout the District to assist in promoting easy access points from highway corridors and wayfinding throughout the community making sure visitors get to where they want to go. In addition, two billboard signs have been installed in West Kelowna and Kelowna directing motorists where to turn off the highway.
The District has also created brightly coloured and weatherproof photo cut-out signs to artistically display the active community’s expanse of agriculture and tourism experiences. These interactive and eye-catching signs have been placed in the community parks of Swalwell, Woodsdale entrance to the Rail Trail and the Oyama boat launch. To create a “buzz on a budget” a digital contest is planned for the upcoming year to inspire residents and visitors alike to post and share their Lake Country experiences utilizing the hashtag “#SipEatShopBe” to win gift certificates to community businesses. The District of Lake Country will monitor the use of the hashtag over the coming months to evaluate the initiatives overall success.
“Being able to accelerate the District’s economic development plan through this project has been an exciting challenge. If it wasn’t for the generous funding from ETSI-BC, the volume of marketing and communication completed in 2021 would not have been possible. Businesses in the community, regardless of what services they provide will all benefit from the increase of visitors as well as commerce awareness throughout the community.” #SipEatShopBe – Ruth Sulentich, Economic Development Specialist, District of Lake Country.