Okanagan flooding impacts hospitality industry

Click to play video: 'Some tourists re-thinking their plans in the Okanagan because of flooding'
Some tourists re-thinking their plans in the Okanagan because of flooding
Some tourists re-thinking their plans in the Okanagan because of flooding – May 18, 2017

Flooding has prompted some tourists to postpone or cancel their travel plans to the Okanagan.

Many hotels in Kelowna have reported cancellations since the flooding began earlier this month. Hotel front desk staff are also fielding a lot of calls from tourists wanting to know how bad the flooding is.

“They’re just asking if it’s safe, are they going to be able to drive around, is everything still open,” Ramada General Manager Stan Martindale said. “We just have to assure them that is not the case.”

Some restaurants have also taken a hit because of the flooding.

Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen Restaurant in Lake Country saw a big decrease in business last week because of evacuations at nearby properties.

“It definitely impacted business,” Ricardo’s owner Sue Miller said. “I won’t lie, we probably got 50 per cent cancellations or no-shows because everyone thought we were under water.”

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The tourist information centre in Kelowna has also been busy answering calls from concerned out-of-towners.

“The frequency of calls did increase and the types of questions were more pointed to what are the hiking conditions like given there is increased water activity and levels in the area, what are the other things can we do in the area, those kinds of things,” Chris Shauf with Tourism Kelowna said.

The flooding situation has prompted Tourism Kelowna to issue a news release reminding visitors that despite higher than normal water levels, the city is open for business.

“Well it’s important to get information out to visitors so that they have information to make informed decisions,” Shauf said. “We don’t want to prevent the flow of timely and important emergency information but we do want make sure that people know that Kelowna and area is open for business.”

With Okanagan Lake still rising, a number of beaches have now been closed throughout the central Okanagan and will remain that way for some time.

“There are a number of beach areas that have been closed across the Central Okanagan,” Jodie Foster with the Emergency Operations Centre said. “But there are lots of other places that you can visit in the central Okanagan and that lots of them are really just the beach part of the park that is closed.”

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Despite the beach closures, the May Long Weekend is shaping up to be busy and if hotel occupancy rates are any indication, the on-going flooding threat should not have a big impact on the number of visitors to the Okanagan this long weekend.

“Right now we are at 82 per cent [occupancy rate],” Martindale said. “May Long Weekend is the kick-off to our summer, it is normally a busy time and it still seems to be on track to be just as busy as it normally is.”

Ricardo’s has also bounced back and expecting a busy long weekend ahead.

“You’re going to be hard pressed to get a table in here,” Miller said.

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