Many tourism reliant businesses took a hit in August due to smoky skies in Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)

Revelstoke businesses take a hit in August

Smoky skies make for a slow month for some

Imogen Whale

Special to the Review

Revelstoke air quality was dismal for much of August. As a resort community reliant on tourists, The Review talked to several outdoor based businesses and guest lodgings to find out if the smoke negatively affected their summer, or if it was just an eye (throat and lung) sore.

When it came to butts in beds, Revelstoke, and likely the whole province, took a hit.

“The smoke had a negative effect on tourism for two or three weeks,” says Brady Beruschi, General Manager of the Best Western Plus. “We received many cancellations and some guests in town were upset. But what can you do? They understood the issue. Still, it’s hard to be a mountain town destination when you can’t see or experience the mountains.”

Having the mountains obscured by heavy smoke had hard hitting results for Revelstoke Paragliding.

“There were several days when we couldn’t fly,” founder and instructor Chris Delworth says. “Paragliding operates under the same visual flight rules (VFR) as helicopters or small planes that don’t have instruments. That means we need one mile of visibility – 3,000 feet horizontally and vertically, to fly. Some days we didn’t have that, some days we did but the air quality was still so bad no one wanted to go out.”

Delworth reported that when guests called with questions, Revelstoke Paragliding answered honestly and that resulted in a significant number of cancellations.

“We let people know if we could go, and how bad the air quality was, and then left it up to them to decide if they wanted to try it when they got here. You could hardly blame people for cancelling.”

Still, some people were eager to give it a try, even with a lack of views.

“It’s not the same experience without the mountain views,” Delworth says.

Though Revelstoke Paragliding does operate in the winter, Delworth explains that a few busy summer days can amount to the same numbers of tandem flights in an entire winter.

“When we get socked in on the mountain in the winter, the same VFR rules apply, so we don’t fly.”

“It was frustrating but there was nothing we could do. Businesses across the whole province will have dealt with lost revenue. Luckily paragliding is becoming more and more popular. “

Though the smoke did cause a few noticeable cancellations, local rafting companies fared better than others.

“Having the state of emergency highlighted in the media definitely encouraged people to stay away,” says Ralph Koerber, owner and operator of Apex Rafting. “But the rest of the summer was nice and balanced it out. We are close to being on par with last season overall.”

Wild Blue Yonder Rafting is finishing their second season of operation in Revelstoke. As such,

Gina Goldie, General Manager notes it was difficult to determine the direct impact.

“People did ask us if trips would be cancelled based on air quality. We had a discussion to decide if the air quality was in realm of risk that needed addressing. Right now, we decided it isn’t. The impacts of air quality are dependent on every individual,” Goldie says.

Still, the season was not as busy as anticipated.

Rafting, Koerber notes, takes less exertion that mountain hiking or biking, and so while a couple of people cancelled for individual health reasons, rafting was something tourists could still get out and enjoy.

Goldie agrees, noting that while on the river, guests are more focused on the still scenic river scenery, so they are not as impacted by the lack of mountain views.

Those working in the mountain biking sector, a high exertion endeavour, felt the impact.

“We didn’t have any cancellations specifically because of smoke or air quality or cancellations on existing bookings,” says Sahana Browning of Wandering Wheels, “but we did notice a decline in last minute bookings. We usually get last minute day tours, and those were heavily impacted.”

With the smoke letting up in town, hopefully a fruitful autumn helps our local outdoor and tourist based businesses recoup their losses from summer.

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