Tourists stay away from Osoyoos because of unfounded wildfire concerns

Click to play video: 'Wildfire is smoking out south Okanagan tourism, even when it’s 100 km away'
Wildfire is smoking out south Okanagan tourism, even when it’s 100 km away
Wildfire is smoking out south Okanagan tourism, even when it’s 100 km away – Jul 25, 2017

South Okanagan towns like Osoyoos are noticing that images of wildfires raging across parts of the B.C. Interior, along with a province-wide state of emergency, don’t do many favours for tourism.

Operators say they’re seeing a drop in vacationers, even though the closest wildfire is burning more than 100 kilometres away, near Princeton.

At the Island View RV resort, owner Dawna Elsasser is dishing out fewer scoops of ice cream than normal for this time of year.

While the resort is full, business at the general store is down approximately 30 per cent due to less foot traffic.

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“Definitely our store, our paddle board kayak rentals, our ice cream sales, things like that, and it just goes to show there is way less traffic in the area,” Elsasser said.

That’s a pretty big hit during the height of summer, which is a crucial time for small, tourism-related businesses to make their money.

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“The summer months are absolutely crucial there is two months where businesses rely on that revenue they rely on the tourists they rely on the people coming to town,” she said.

The Osoyoos golf club has also recorded a 30 per cent drop in business in the past 10 days.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association said a similar story is unfolding across the Interior.

“It really happened the first week of July when the fires were at their initial height in our northern part of the province, and when the provincial-wide state of emergency happened, a lot of confusion over what that means,” said vice-president Ellen Walker-Matthews.

Osoyoos tourism operators want the public to know the beaches are pristine, the weather is beautiful, and the opportunities for water sports are endless.

“I would really just like to tell people that Osoyoos is open for business,” Elsasser said.

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