West Kelowna wine country, pictured in October 2020. (Phil McLachlan - West K News)

West Kelowna wine country, pictured in October 2020. (Phil McLachlan - West K News)

B.C. wine industry still recovering, looking to return to pre-pandemic boom

The wine industry contributed $3.75 billion to the province economy in 2019

It’s no secret that almost every single industry was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But one that was growing exponentially up until the country came to a halt was British Columbia’s wine industry. And besides locals enjoying wineries, one of the biggest factors for wineries was taken away during the pandemic: tourism.

In 2019, the B.C. wine and grape industry contributed $3.75 billion to the province’s economy.

According to an industry research report titled ‘Canada’s Wine Economy – Growth and Innovation Through Global Challenges’, the 2019 numbers clearly show the dedication that has been placed on the industry to make the province a prime destination.

The report, however, also lays out the major impacts that hit the industry in 2020.

“These findings show that for the B.C. wine economy to re-capture the momentum and potential of its pre-pandemic growth, especially as it relates to tourism, strategic collaboration between government and industry will be required,” said Miles Prodan, Wine Growers British Columbia President & CEO.

The report clearly shows how hard the wine industry in the province was hit during the first nine months of the pandemic.

(Contributed)

“In our wine shop we have observed a noticeable lack of out-of-province guests, which while not overly surprising that those coming from overseas would be fewer, we had expected US and Albertan tourists to return, which just hasn’t happened,” said Erin Korpisto, general manager of Stag’s Hollow Winery in Okanagan Falls.

While restrictions were repeatedly tightened and loosened throughout 2021, wineries didn’t see a lot of growth in numbers.

“That tourism piece is really what got diminished as a result of COVID-19,” said Dr. Robert Eyler, President of Economic Forensics and Analytics report author. “The ripple effects from a lack of tourism feeds into the wine industry and related industries. With most economists predicting that global tourism will not return to 2019 numbers until 2024/25, the wine industry needs to approach tourism differently to bridge the gap.”

Wineries have also seen common problems like labour shortages and supply issues, while also experiencing extreme weather patterns. But to get numbers back to where they were in 2019, Wine Growers British Columbia is working on a BC Wine Tourism Strategy as a path for the wine and tourism industry over the next five years (2023-27).

“The growth from 2011 to 2019 shows that the BC wine and grape industry is a significant driver of the provincial economy which needs to be advocated for as we embark on the coming years contending with continued shadow effects of the pandemic,” said Prodan.

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@cunninghamjordy
jordy.cunningham@kelownacapnews.com

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