PLANNING CONTINUES TO OFFER SHUTTLE SERVICE FROM KELOWNA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO OSOYOOS AND OTHER TOWNS
Posted on 14 March 2013 by Keith Lacey
It may not happen until nearly next year, but numerous key stakeholders are continuing plans to offer a daily shuttle service from Kelowna International Airport to Osoyoos.
“This is something we believe would be of great benefit to a lot of people in our community,” said Holly Plante, the new president of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce (SOCC), which is one of the key stakeholders involved in discussions to form a business plan that would eventually see a shuttle service offered between the Kelowna airport and several communities in the South Okanagan, including the Town of Osoyoos.
A group of nine individual stakeholders met at the Town of Osoyoos council chambers on Feb. 19 to discuss the development and future operation of a proposed shuttle bus service from the Kelowna International Airport to Osoyoos. The plan would include several other possible stops along the way, including one in Oliver and Okanagan Falls.
Kelowna International Airport manager Sam Samaddar initiated the meeting.
Also attending were Town of Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells, chief administrative officer Barry Romanko, Ingrid Jarrett, manager of the Watermark Beach Resort, Jo Knight, executive director of Destination Osoyoos, town councillor Mike Plante and SOCC transportation advisor Robert Linttell.
While there are still many details to iron out, there was overwhelming consensus that a shuttle bus service would help regional community economic development and tourism initiatives, said Holly Plante.
After extensive discussion, it was agreed a business plan be prepared by an accredited and experienced third party which would provide all stakeholders and the various municipal and district government key information which would enable the committee to further direct efforts for the proposed service, potential funding and operation, she said.
Linttell is the SOCC designated representative on the Kelowna International Airport Advisory Committee for the next two years. As part of this commitment, Linttell will provide a transportation presentation about the potential of a shuttle bus service that will be open to members of the public at the SOCC After Business meeting scheduled for Road 13 Winery between Oliver and Osoyoos on Wednesday, March 20 at 5:50 p.m.
The key stakeholders all agree a regular shuttle bus service would be a good idea considering the South Okanagan and Osoyoos attract tourists from across the province, across Canada and around the world, said Linttell.
“There are an awful lot of people who fly into the airport in Kelowna from all over the world who want to experience all that the South Okanagan has to offer,” he said. “And a lot of them would be interested in being able to get around to the various communities without having to use a car.”
The process to determine the details will involve allowing all interested parties to voice an opinion and incorporate this into a final business plan, said Linttell.
Considering Osoyoos’ population expands from just fewer than 5,000 to often more than 20,000 on the long weekends during prime tourist season, Linttell said stakeholders don’t have any doubt a shuttle service would be a huge hit in this community.
The study is intended to further clarify the best options in terms of schedules, the size of the bus that would be required, the frequency of when it would travel throughout the day as well as the cost to travel on it and cost to operate, he said.
“Providing people better convenience in getting to that area would be a great benefit to local business,” he said.
Holly Plante said the SOCC believes the shuttle service must be about more than simply transporting bodies.
“When people come to the South Okanagan, it’s all about having an experience and we want to offer something where people using the service would start their experience from the second they board the bus,” she said. “We want to make this a fun thing and promote the fact you can get around one of the most beautiful regions in the country without having to rent a vehicle.”
Kelowna International Airport is now offering daily flights to such major destinations as New York and Los Angeles and is promoting itself as a facility capable of bringing in visitors from around the world, she said.
Being able to transport visitors from Kelowna to various communities across the South Okanagan in a safe and affordable manner is going to have a lot of appeal to tourists and tourist operators in Osoyoos and across the region, she said.
Because there are so many details to be ironed out and contracts signed, Plante said it’s likely the shuttle service would not be operational until the spring of 2014.
Bonnie Dancey, the CEO of the SOCC, said the idea of providing a shuttle service between Kelowna International and tourist destinations like Osoyoos and Oliver has been discussed at various times for many years, but it’s closer to becoming reality than ever with so many key partners working on the same page.
“We’re very hopeful,” she said. “We want to make sure we offer the opportunity to use the shuttle at many stops along the way, meaning we can pick up and drop off passengers in Penticton, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos … and anywhere else in between that makes sense.
“This will all be worked out as we move closer to offering the service.”
Many people who fly to B.C. for a vacation would love the option of not having to rent a vehicle and be able to visit numerous communities in the South Okanagan by using the shuttle service, said Dancey.
The March 20 meeting will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to answer questions as this process moves forward, she said.
Wells said he thinks the shuttle service will become a reality within the next several months.
“The management at the airport in Kelowna are committed to greatly increasing traffic at that airport and is working hard to make that happen,” he said.
“Kelowna airport is the key Calgary hookup and is now able to receive flights from eastern Canada, so the tourism opportunities across the South Okanagan are only going to become greater as we move forward.
“A well-run and operated shuttle service from the airport to all the communities across the South Okanagan, including us here in Osoyoos, would, in my opinion, be very well-used and very popular.
“We’re excited about it.”
There are many local residents who love to travel around the world and the opportunity to be able to get to the Kelowna airport without having to take their vehicle and pay hefty parking fees will also appeal to a lot of people, said Wells.
Because there are many details to iron out and contracts to be signed, Wells also doesn’t believe the shuttle service will be offered for at least several more months, with next spring being a solid target date.
The good news is all of the stakeholders appear very committed to making this happen and he believes the shuttle service will become a reality and big success, said Wells.