British Columbia

Kelowna Chamber of Commerce accused of working with U.S. companies

Travel tour agencies are accusing their local chamber of commerce of not shopping locally, instead they say the chamber is signing deals with companies in the United States.

'They're not using local companies, instead they're using this company in California,' says tour operator

Since 2013, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce has offered what it calls travel and learn tours. This year it's taking people to Japan, Haida Gwaii and Iceland. (Getty Images/National Geographic RF)

Travel tour agencies in Kelowna are accusing their local chamber of commerce of not shopping locally, instead they say the chamber is signing deals with companies in the United States. 

"They are not using local companies, instead they are using this company in California, the company in Rhode Island," said Roland Neave, owner of Wells Gray Tours Ltd. 

Roland Neave says the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is not supporting local travel companies. (Wells Gray Tours)

In 2013, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce began a 'Travel and Learn Program' which offers tours to destinations like Japan and Iceland.

The program allows tour operators to bid for a chance to take hundreds of travellers on trips to various destinations. 

Neave's company has won one of the bids to organize a tour, but says the chamber is using outside operators for most of the other trips.

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is defending itself against the allegations. It says it does not use companies outside its memberships.

"All of the travel companies have been local companies," said Caroline Grover, CEO of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce. 

'Fully registered in Canada'

She says they worked with Sun Country Tours, once — which is listed as being based in Oregon — to test out the project.

But now the chamber has come under fire for working with Collette Tours, which lists its global headquarters in Rhode Island.

"They may have a global headquarters but they're a Canadian company, who are fully registered in Canada," said Grover. 

Grover says the company is a member of the chamber. 

But Maritime Travel has canceled its membership over the situation. 

"You are talking one company," she said, "This is a company we have worked with, they are a local company. It is unfortunate anytime a member leaves."

With files from the CBC's Daybreak South and Christina Low and Brady Strachan.

To hear the full interview with Caroline Grover, listen to the audio labelled: Kelowna Chamber of Commerce says it is not using American companies


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