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Nov 17, 2023

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – November 17, 2023



Last spring I was in the US Customs area at YVR waiting to be cleared before boarding a flight to Palm Springs. As one would expect, the border services agent asked me several questions including where I would be staying while in the U.S.A. I told him I was bunking at a friend’s place in Indian Wells but that wasn’t good enough. The officer wanted a specific address at which point I realized that I didn’t have it.

After frantically texting my buddy and thankfully receiving an immediate response, I proceeded to pass my temporary California address on to the agent. However, the border guard still wouldn’t let me clear customs because I neglected to include the all-important zip code. Following another desperate text to my friend, I was eventually able to begin my journey but not before plugging the full contact details into my phone for future reference. Turns out I needed the address three hours later when the cab driver at Palm Springs airport insisted on a street name and zip code rather than allowing me to direct her to my final destination.

Clearly zip codes are a big deal in America but the same goes for Canada for reasons I hadn’t considered until recently. As you know, in its simplest form a postal code (PC) is necessary to ensure timely delivery of a letter or parcel to someone in another jurisdiction. Within a tourism context, a postal code is vital for marketing or booking accommodation online, delivery of supplies to local businesses, financial transactions and more.

In recent months an issue concerning postal codes has come to my attention that I’ve been trying to help resolve. Seems that Big White Mountain, home to as many as 10,000 overnight residents and guests on weekends during peak ski season, does not have its own postal code. What’s worse, after many years of lobbying Canada Post, the resort continues to experience the runaround by the federal agency even though a PC was promised by year’s end.

Aside from the challenges I alluded to earlier, the absence of a postal code has cost Tourism Big White Society MRDT revenue, which in some instances was accounted for in a neighbouring community. Social media content generated by guests often shows the resort to be located in Beaverdell which obviously leads new visitors astray. Google businesses listings are inaccurate because post office box numbers are not recognized. Residents can’t take delivery of medication and even have difficulty buying house insurance, renewing driver’s licenses, setting up utility payments, and other necessities that rely on a PC.

Big White Mountain’s 2022 tax assessment was $1.6 billion. More homeowners are expected soon with $130 million in new construction and resort improvements underway. Over 900 seasonal employees work on the mountain during the winter months. For the size of the community and its corresponding infrastructure, surely it can’t be that difficult to establish the mountain as an independent resort municipality (i.e. separate from Kootenay boundary) with its own, unique PC.

I’m confident that at some point the collective efforts of many will pay off and Big White Mountain will have a dedicated postal code but why does the bureaucracy move so slowly for something so important? On the heels of the devastating wildfires in August, this situation is yet one more challenge for the beleaguered Okanagan tourism sector to try to overcome.

Recently I took the uncrowded but scenic route through a portion of Washington State to get to Abbotsford. I stopped for gas along the way at an old service station off the beaten path. When I plugged my credit card into the terminal attached to the gas pump, I received a message asking for my zip code. Because my Visa card is linked to a Canadian address and obviously I don’t live in the States, I couldn’t pay at the pump. My only option was to pre-pay inside the station, fill my vehicle with gas, then return to the attendant to reconcile the bill. It took me twice as long as I planned. As trivial as my gas station experience was, at the very least it reminded me of the residents and tourism businesses of Big White who face even more frustration every day without a simple postal code.

Walt Judas


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📈 With a view to building a stronger and more strategic relationship, TIABC CEO Walt Judas Met with Joe Baker, Dean of the Okanagan College School of Business in Kelowna. 

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Pictured left to right:
- Deb Kulchiski - TIABC
- Ceri Chong - Tourism Richmond
- Chris Lewis - Tourism Kelowna
- Nicole Ford - Rocky Mountaineer
- J.J. Belanger - Crystal Cove Beach Resort
- Jamie Cox - St. Andrews by the Lake
- Walt Judas - TIABC
- Mike Retasket - CCCT
- Joanne Burns-Millar - Pacific Destinations