Raise a glass to wine tourism

Last Friday, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture announced a new marketing campaign to support B.C. wine and food tourism.

A few hours later, hundreds of revelers in Parksville raised a glass in approval.

OK, so the announcement by Minister Lisa Beare, which includes the creation of a new Minister’s Tourism Engagement Council, was not actually held in conjunction with the annual Parksville Uncorked Wine & Culinary Festival. Indeed, it took place in Kelowna, which is rather closer to the heart of B.C.’s Okanagan wine-making centre.

Still, there was a bit of synchronicity in the timing of the new campaign, which is intended to “support the thousands of British Columbians who rely on tourism for jobs that pay their bills and support their families,” according to Beare.

Parksville Uncorked, now in its 10th year, was started in part to create some “buzz,” and evolved to include a goal of showcasing and recognizing local and regional beer and wine producers that have leaped into the market in the past decade.

Of course, Uncorked was also conceived as a welcome sign, inviting visitors from outside the region to come to the community to enjoy wine and food — while also filling some rooms and spending dollars with local businesses during their stays.

Those visitors have answered that call. While Uncorked remains a relatively small and intimate festival in comparison to some of the behemoth tasting events in greater Victoria or Vancouver, the festival has expanded to become a four-day event that includes a special night devoted to beer producers and their products.

Admittedly, this is not a family friendly tourism draw. But it can provide a key economic injection during the “shoulder” season of late-winter/early-spring. as we await the throngs of summer fun-seekers.

It’s not clear how much of the $150,000 promised by the province for this campaign will trickle to Parksville Qualicum Beach. Yet events like Uncorked, and the fledgling wine and beer festivals launched by the Qualicum Beach Rotary Club last year, will benefit by being included in a larger provincial push that includes the involvement of Destination BC and the B.C. Wine Institute.

Which, in turn, would benefit all of us who live in a tourism-dependent region.

And we’ll raise a glass to that.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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