Smoke from wildfires across Western Canada and the Western United States has blown into the Central Okanagan and remained in the area for over a week. On August 15, the Government of British Columbia issued a province-wide state of emergency for the second summer in a row. These conditions are having a direct economic impact on accommodations and attractions in our area. Many accommodators are receiving questions from travellers and some are experiencing cancellations or shortened stays. Tourism Kelowna continues to activate short, medium and long-term responses on behalf of our local tourism industry.
What We Are Doing
Tourism Kelowna’s role is to promote overnight visits and tourism spending in Kelowna and surrounding areas. As your destination marketing organization, we can’t control smoke from wild fires, but we do
1) assess impact and share market information, 2) promote accurate, real time information to potential visitors and 3) connect current visitors with the wide array of tourism experiences that are not weather dependent. Our visitor experience team and the Kelowna Visitor Centre play a vital role in promoting visitor spending and encouraging longer stay times in market thanks to our ability to influence an average of 750 in-person visitors per day plus many more via phone, email, social media and live webchats means. We also work in close collaboration with industry, government and tourism marketing partners to collaborate on messaging and response
Understanding a “State of Emergency”
Enacting a State of Emergency is not as alarming as it sounds but rather it triggers the province’s access to federal resources and gives agencies the authority to take necessary actions to protect the public and communities in a timely, well-coordinated manner.
Earlier this week Tourism Kelowna surveyed 90 local accommodators. We heard about 75% had experienced at least one cancellation due to smoke conditions and 58% experienced current guests shortening their stay. We also heard
- sensationalized media reports are still part of the problem, with accommodators working hard to correct guest misperceptions of current conditions;
- the effect on accommodators is varied with some experiencing multiple cancellations and some not affected at all; and
- guests as well as business operators find real-time condition reports, live cams, and other online resources very helpful.
How You Can Help
- Share the link to our live conditions web cam located at the Kelowna Visitor Centre
- Post a photo or video of residents and visitors at your business and tag it #RealTimeKelowna. Include the date and time so visitors can see the many activities they can enjoy in Kelowna no matter what the weather.
- Tag your content and social media posts with #exploreKelowna so we can amplify it.
- Share your business information with visitors by contacting our Visitor Experience Team.
Ready to Rebound Strong
Last year we experienced similar weather conditions that impacted visitor numbers, with hotel occupancies rebounding in fall so that as a destination we ended 2017 virtually on par with 2016, which was a record setting year to date. We began 2018 poised for a strong year, with occupancies to June trending 2% growth over last year. We would normally expect July to September occupancy rates to run 83%-86% and so we will be monitoring to determine weather impact.
Plans to roll-out a strong fall advertising campaign are already underway. Now more than ever, strengthening Kelowna’s four-season destination appeal is vital to a 2018 rebound and our long-term success. If you have questions about our marketing and advertising program, please contact Chris Shauf at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250) 861-1515 ext. 203
Thank you for the supportive comments and feedback we have been receiving. Tourism Kelowna staff and volunteers are proud to work on behalf of our region’s vibrant visitor economy and alongside local tourism businesses and partners.
Recommended Social Media Response (Twitter):
- For current travel conditions, or to connect with a travel planning expert from Tourism Kelowna to help you plan activities for your visit, please contact Tourism Kelowna’s visitor experience team at (link to https://www.tourismkelowna.com/plan/visitor-centre/). #exploreKelowna
- The Central Okanagan is experiencing smoke from wildfires burning in Western Canada and the Western United States. On some days, this creates reduced air quality and visibility.
- Due to several fires across the province, a provincewide state of emergency has been enacted. While there are no fires of note in the Kelowna area, smoke has been present for several days. The safety and comfort of travelers is important to us and we want visitors to have information to make informed travel decisions.
- Local businesses continue to welcome visitors on summer vacations. Kelowna offers a broad range of activities that can be enjoyed in different weather conditions. Local businesses and the Kelowna Visitor Centre team of experts are available to answer questions and help travelers with information on current conditions and connecting them with activities to enjoy.
Kelowna Visitor Centre
- Phone: (250) 861-1515 / Toll-free line: 1-800-663-4345
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Website: tourismkelowna.com updated frequently with information to help visitors
- Address: 238 Queensway, Kelowna BC
- Road Conditions: DriveBC
- Kelowna International Airport (YLW)
- BC Wildfire Information: BC Wildfire Service website and interactive map.
- Report a wildfire or irresponsible behaviors 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 from a cell phone
- Air quality: BC Air Quality Index
Central Okanagan Emergency Operations
- Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) information line: (250) 469-8490
- CORD Website: (for updates and to subscribe to e-updates)
- Additional emergency contacts