Our local tourism industry is facing an extremely challenging summer. As we head into the August long weekend—historically the busiest weekend in our year—we’re dealing with a number of active and quickly evolving issues.
First, the ongoing global pandemic continues to affect us at the local level. Yesterday, Interior Health issued additional, mandatory public health measures to help reduce COVID-19 transmission in our region. Details are available on the Government of BC’s website and below you will find key messages and Q&As to assist you and your staff. Second, hot and dry conditions have created extremely challenging weather conditions and wildfires. The conditions change day-to-day and impact the travel experience. Third, and likely closest to home for our local businesses, is the extreme labour shortage we’re all facing, placing additional stress on top of an already strained industry.
It’s easy to focus on the challenges, but it is also helpful to list the positives. Overall, BC and Canada continue to fare well in both the fight against COVID-19 and economic recovery. Our community has not been directly impacted by wildfires. And for the most part, customers continue to come to our region, reunite with friends and family, and explore Kelowna and area. We’re thankful for those working hard to keep us safe at home and as we travel, from health care workers to firefighters and many behind the scenes. We also sincerely appreciate all of the tourism and hospitality workers putting in extra hours and effort for the comfort and safety of their customers.
Tourism Kelowna is here to help through this challenging season and to help position us for our recovery. Please be in contact with our team with updates from your business or questions. We’ve faced challenges and come through before, and I know we’ll do so again.
- The health and safety of our community is our collective priority. Additional regional measures have been put in place by Interior Health to help reduce COVID-19 transmission and we ask visitors and residents to follow these guidelines to keep our community and each other safe.
- Public health officials are not recommending travel to or from the region for those who have not been fully vaccinated. Those who have been vaccinated may continue to travel, and we ask they do so safely and responsibly.
- We are doing our part to support the ongoing public health response. Local businesses have health and safety protocols and plans in place and will continue to refine them as needed. The past number of months have demonstrated that visits to accommodations, attractions, and businesses with COVID-19 measures in place can be enjoyed safely and responsibly. Local businesses are under increased challenges due to high demand and labour challenges. The stress on businesses, many already operating at decreased capacity during peak season and still recovering from months of restrictions and closures, is significant.
- We remain in a global pandemic, and it continues to impact us at the local level. We ask visitors and residents to travel safely and responsibly and to abide by health and safety guidelines. Know before you go and call ahead to get information to make informed travel decisions. We also ask individuals to continue supporting local businesses as much as possible.
- Interior Health reports that more than 95% of recent cases in our region are among people who are not fully vaccinated. Anyone who can get vaccinated, should, to protect themselves and each other. Vaccination clinics are ongoing and Interior Health is increasing its efforts to make this possible. The health of our community and residents, and the future of Kelowna and area's $2-billion tourism industry, depends on it.
What is happening in the Central Okanagan?
- Interior Health has declared an outbreak in the Central Okanagan region. This is due to an increased number of COVID-19 cases with the vast majority of cases occurring among individuals who have not been vaccinated. There is not a specific event or location these cases are attributed to, so they are asking the entire region to take additional precautions to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
What are the new health measures and recommendations?
- These new measures and recommendations include:
- Requiring individuals (12 and up) to wear a mask in indoor settings and recommending individuals wear a mask in outdoor settings where physical distance cannot be maintained.
- Public health officials are also discouraging travel by those who are not yet fully vaccinated.
- Recommending events be held outdoors whenever possible; reminding those in the region to continue limiting the number of people at indoor organized gatherings to 50 people or 50% of the venue’s total capacity; requiring a COVID-19 safety plan to be in place for events held during the outbreak.
- Maintaining existing public health measures including frequent hand washing, staying home if sick, and getting tested if not feeling well.
- More information is available on the Government of BC’s website.
How long are they in place for?
- These additional measures will be in place for at least 14 days and until the case numbers in the region decrease and vaccination rates increase.
Is Interior Health advising against travel to and from the Central Okanagan?
- Interior Health is discouraging travel among those who have not been fully vaccinated. This is consistent with past advice encouraging everyone who can to get vaccinated as it is the best defense against COVID-19. Those who have been fully vaccinated are able to travel and we ask they observe local guidelines and public health measures in place. We also ask they stay alert and informed of all travel and weather conditions.
Was this outbreak caused by tourists?
- More than 95 per cent of recent cases in the Central Okanagan are among people who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is not about where people are from but whether or not they have been fully vaccinated.
Is travel to the Central Okanagan safe?
- Currently, there are public health and weather conditions that may impact your travel, and it’s important you know before you go. Call ahead to ask questions and seek information from official sources to make informed travel decisions.
- If you have been fully vaccinated, you are welcome to travel and the risk of transmission is low.
What about children?
- Interior Health is not reporting an increase in cases among children or youth. Their primary concern is adults who have not been vaccinated.
Can businesses determine their own mask mandate?
- These new measures have been put in place by Interior Health and are mandatory. As such, the orders must be observed by the business and by customers. Information is available on the Government of BC’s website. Individual businesses may also have additional public health and safety measures in place.
What should we tell our customers?
- It’s important that businesses and customers adhere to the public health measures that are in place. The measures are mandatory and the recommendations should be taken into consideration.
- While we understand these temporary public health measures may not be supported by everyone, we are asking everyone to abide by them. They are important to help bring case numbers down and protect our community including those who live here and those who are visiting.
Where can I find out more or where can I direct our customers for more information?
- Information is available on the Government of BC’s website.
- Information, including links to official sources of information, is also available on Tourism Kelowna’s website to help visitors and residents.
What if a customer or employee does not follow or support the public health measures?
- Public health measures are mandatory and must be followed. If a business or customer does not follow the measures, contact Interior Health or WorkSafeBC. If needed, an issue may also be reported to the RCMP or local police.
For more information, contact Chris Shauf, Director of Marketing & Communication, email@example.com