The Okanagan is becoming a buzzword in travel circles. The valley has been on so many top ten lists in the last year, it’s hard to keep track of all the accolades. And destinations as urban as Victoria and as “off the beaten track” like Tofino are being touted as foodie destinations.

Chefs seem to be migrating to spots where farm-to-table is as easy as a walk to a local market, and quality proteins from arctic char to elk sausage are lovingly raised and processed by a family just down the road.

We are, as yet, undiscovered, but on the cusp of being a draw for culinary travelers seeking an authentic experience, and culinary tourism is the fastest growing travel segment worldwide. We want to go where we can taste a flavour, or a dish, or a wine that will linger on our tastebuds and in our memory for years.

IWINETC brings together tourism agencies, travel planners, wineries and more to discuss and share knowledge on wine tourism practices worldwide. From the first year, which required showing a map of Canada to point out BC and its wine-making regions and numerous requests for icewine, the attendees are starting to ask more about how to get here, what the chefs do, and what grapes are being grown.

It’s an ongoing education, but an exciting one. The challenge, though, is first getting tour operators here to experience the Okanagan, and BC in general, first-hand. Then they can take the next step to create in-bound tours to get culinary enthusiasts to book their visit.

Is it time for us to host an international food and wine conference? We have excellent established events like the Vancouver International Wine Festival, the seasonal Okanagan wine fests, and Kelowna hosts the growing Canadian Culinary Championships each winter. Or do we create something new?

The momentum is frvesh, the ideas are ripe, and the potential to attract wine and food tourists is growing. Let’s keep telling our story and storyboard a successful 2016.

~ Allison Markin