Column: Growth Reaches New Heights

Last week, the inaugural flight between Cranbrook and our own Kelowna International Airport (YLW) arrived on the tarmac, beginning regular service between the two regions. Pacific Coastal Airways has added this destination to its list of more than 65 B.C. communities that they connect with regular service, bringing even more visitors to the Okanagan.

This new route is great news for the Kelowna and Okanagan tourism industry, and for our friends in the Kootenays who already travelled here to see medical specialists and use our world-class medical facilities.

As our community continues to grow, it is important that we have the infrastructure to meet the demands of today, and anticipate the growth of tomorrow. The Kelowna Airport has ambitious plans to meet a goal of 1.6 million passengers by 2015, and they’re well on their way to meeting it. This year, the one millionth passenger flew out of our airport in August, compared to September last year and December in 2005.

The airport has already completed a $4.8 million expansion on the international arrivals area, providing more space for Canadian Border Services Agency to do their important work. Anyone who has waited in a busy customs line can appreciate the value in providing more space to reduce congestion at customs.

The runway has received new surface paving for the first time since 1986, making sure that planes of all size will be able to land safely at our airport.

As another part of the Drive to 1.6 Million Passenger Program, a $1 million revitalization was completed on the Airport Way, improving the road infrastructure and making aesthetic enhancements like landscaping and lighting.

As the airport expands, more airlines like Pacific Coastal Airways are bringing service routes to Kelowna. Earlier this year, the airport announced seasonal service to Whitehorse in a partnership with the Yukon’s airline, Air North. Airlines like Northwestern Air are expanding their existing service with flights to Abbotsford and Red Deer.

What does this mean for Kelowna? In a study done on projected airport expansion between 2007 and 2025, it found that over 3,000 jobs will be created by 2015, and over $525 million in economic output between the study’s publication in 2007 and 2025.

Kelowna has a thriving tourism industry, and it’s exciting to know that visitors from all around the world travel to see the natural beauty of our region, to try the incredible wines from this region, and to experience our hospitality. Having an airport that allows for simple travel plans and a seamless journey is a key aspect of attracting more guests every year, and growing our economy.

Our tourism industry contributes millions to our economy, creates great jobs, and provides opportunities for our children to live and work right here in Kelowna. We’re so fortunate to have the tools we need to keep our tourism industry growing, and with everyone working together to encourage economic development and growth, we have a bright future ahead of us.

I look forward to seeing the future developments that the Kelowna International Airport has planned, playing their part in helping us connect with the province, the rest of the country, and the world.