Within the short span of a month, we’ve seen tremendous impact and response from Central Okanagan communities due to wildfires.The provincial state of emergency has now expired. Two of three wildfires have been classified as under control, and significant progress has been made in managing the remaining one. We offer continued thanks to emergency responders and firefighters for their work. The wildfires have impacted our community, and we remain sensitive to those who suffered losses, and areas that still need time to recover.
Work to welcome visitors back safely began when travel orders were lifted. There’s no doubt that travel volumes have been impacted; however, we are seeing signs that some visitation is returning. It will take time and a combination of short-, medium-, and long-term tactics to restore visitation and rebuild confidence, and we are committed to doing our part to help local tourism businesses recover. We also remain committed to keeping you informed of our activities, and dispersing important information from the government that may be of assistance.
Last week, the federal government announced changes to the repayment deadlines for Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans. Tourism Kelowna, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, and many other tourism and hospitality industry associations continue to provide information to the government with a series of urgent requests for assistance. In brief, these include:
- Request for immediate cash flow relief for businesses in the affected areas.
- Additional assistance to save fall business.
- Assistance to lobby the federal government on wage subsidy, EI minimums, loan repayment forgiveness or extensions, and flexibility in LMIA contracts for foreign workers.
- Additional requests to delay trail maintenance in parks, task force and technology for emergency accommodation operations, and increased wildfire mitigation efforts.
Our organization's rebuilding efforts continue, including:
- An immediate “Kelowna is Open” campaign to help with recovery efforts.
- Additional content partnership with the Kelowna Hotel Motel Association to showcase local accommodations and attractions.
- Activation of our emergency marketing reserve funds to increase our paid advertising spend in the fall, specifically increasing marketing activities in Western Canada to support rebuilding efforts.
- Continued collaborations with tourism and industry associations on marketing campaigns, including DBC’s “Travel Now To...” campaign and advocacy requests.
- Continued support to current and future travellers to answer questions, provide information, and encourage safe travel in upcoming days, weeks, and months.
In addition to these immediate actions, our team’s ongoing efforts to encourage future visits continue. We are looking forward to hosting several large events and festivals this fall, including BreakOut West and the Pan Continental Curling Championships, and finalizing more business events. We look forward to sharing more announcements and news with you in the coming weeks.
Even though the impact of the wildfires was immediate, rebuilding will take time and targeted action. While we continue our advocacy for government support, we encourage local tourism businesses to continue sending impact statements and requests for assistance and support to the provincial government. You can also contact me at email@example.com to provide information and updates on how your business has been impacted.
If you have not already done so, please sign up for our weekly Industry News Centre email updates to keep connected with Tourism Kelowna’s work on this, and other efforts, to increase the economic impact of tourism, enhance the quality of life, and serve the local tourism industry.