Tourism numbers are down in the Thompson/Okanagan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

Okanagan tourism continues to suffer following COVID-19 pandemic

The District of Lake Country voted to suspend tourism on March 31

Tourism in the Okanagan continues to take a major hit as strict health measures to combat the COVID-19 virus remain in place.

On March 31, the District of Lake Country council decided to suspend a Lake Country of Commerce contract, ceasing tourism operations for the remainder of the year.

Karen Miller, communications officer with the District of Lake Country said the decision was an easy one.

“Funding a service that may put people at risk during this COVID‐19 pandemic may present a risk to the district both legally and financially, on top of the greater community health risk,” said Miller.

“The service is not considered essential and there is potential that non‐essential services will be forced to shut down in the near future. So, this termination gets ahead of the issue, rather than having the district terminate the service mid‐season.”

READ MORE: ‘Shop, don’t stop’: Kelowna farmers host first outdoor market of year amid COVID-19

Other tourism marketing and support agencies also pivoted their own messaging given the changes in the sector resulting from COVID‐19.

According to Ellen Walker-Matthews, vice president of industry and destination stewardship with Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, all Okanagan tourist centres (other than Lake Country) remain in operation and are doing so online while encouraging people to stay home and to visit the Okanagan when the health ministers restrictions are lifted.

“The biggest thing is the health and well-being of everyone,” said Walker-Matthews.

“At this point, there is really no tourism opportunity other than asking people to stay home and asking people to visit when it’s safe to do so and when those in authority say it’s time that we can go out again.”

READ MORE: Kelowna DJ gets shoutout from John Krasinski for ‘intellectual property heist’

The spring and summer months have historically been an important time for the Okanagan economically, often seeing a large increase in tourism during this time. Walker-Matthews said there’s no way of sugar codding it — Kelowna and the Okanagan are being heavily affected, which is why the local tourism sector is doing everything it can to be best positioned for when the pandemic concludes.

“This is the time of year that everyone in this region makes their livelihood, from the small business operator to the large business operator,” she said.

“We are on calls daily with our stakeholders trying to assess their situation and eventually hopefully access the funding that they’re so desperately in need of. Our CEO Glenn Mandziuk is also on a call every day with the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture and weekly with the tourism minister. So, we’re trying to make sure that information is communicated and streamlines up to the government in the best way possible to help the industry survive this.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry continues to preach social and physical distancing while urging British Columbians to halt non-essential travel within the province, especially to smaller communities that may not be able to cope with a COVID-19 outbreak.

On April 2, Henry cited the holiday weekend coming in just over a week, asking people to celebrate Easter in a “safe way” so the holiday doesn’t lead to more outbreaks.

“We need to think about what we can do to support people in practicing their faith without having to have in-person gatherings,” Henry said, noting she was heartened that many faith groups have already stopped face-to-face gatherings to keep their seniors safe.

As of April 6, a total of 1,266 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in B.C., 783 of which have recovered from the illness and 39 people have died.


Daniel Taylor
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at daniel.taylor@kelownacapnews.com
Follow me on Twitter

CoronavirusTourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Revelstoke City Hall to re-open June 1

Drop-in hours will be limited and appointments are available

Revelstoke Community Foundation giving $40,000 to charities

The funds are to help during the pandemic

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Two bears killed in Revelstoke so far this year

Society warns this year could be similar to 2016 when 26 bears were killed

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Flood watch for Salmon River upgraded as high temperatures, rain forecast

Shuswap Emergency Program warns residents to prepare now for possible extreme flooding

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

RCMP request public’s help in locating missing Salmon Arm man

Ken Derkach is a familiar face to many, one of the city’s residents who is without a home

Booze on Kelowna beaches? Mayor says ‘not at the moment’

Mayor Colin Basran says alcohol in public spaces is not on council’s radar right now — but that could change

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

VIDEO: Police look for suspect seen tripping elderly woman in Burnaby

The elderly woman was walking near the SkyTrain station when she was randomly tripped

Drunk man on a dirt bike and prohibited drivers without insurance keep Shuswap RCMP busy

Other calls resulted in excessive speed tickets and the arrests of two prohibited drivers

Most Read