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

‘Perfect storm’ causes influx of black widows in the Okanagan

The region’s only venomous spider has come out in full force this year

Okanagan College expands ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ to all students this fall

Wellness Wednesday workshops are designed to be psycho-educational

AlleyCats Okanagan: Pet of the week

Mort is available through AlleyCats Alliance

Penticton film production seeking extras

Change of Pace is set to begin filming in Penticton Sept. 28

Veintimilla to run as Liberal candidate

The Oliver councillor will run for MLA of the Boundary-Similkameen riding

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

Attorney General defends Kelowna Mountie involved in rough arrest

Tyler Russell filed a lawsuit against Const. Siggy Pietrzak in June of this year

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Suspected human remains found in burned out vehicle on OKIB land

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP hand over investigation to Major Crimes

Kamloops RCMP search for armed robber of pizza restaurant

The incident unfolded on Monday evening at the Sahali Domino’s store

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Trial underway for Kamloops man charged with kidnapping

Michael Mathieson is charged with armed robbery, unlawful confinement and kidnapping

Most Read