August 9, 2018 7:49 pm
Updated: August 9, 2018 11:00 pm

Hazy skies but message clear: Similkameen Valley open for business


Near the quaint Similkameen village of Keremeos, bed and breakfasts, fruit stands and wineries flourish across sprawling acreage.

But during the height of the tourism season, the 12,000-hectare Snowy Mountain wildfire is rearing its ugly head in the hills.

“I think it’s slower than some of the past years because of the fire,” Bears Fruit Market manager Sukhraj Bengag said when asked about visitor traffic.

READ MORE: Fire crews getting upperhand in fight against Placer Mountain, Snowy Mountain wildfires

That’s the sentiment echoed across the valley.

The Keremeos Visitor Centre is fielding calls from prospective tourists who are contemplating a change in plans.

“We’ve seen it with the floods in the spring; we’re now seeing it with the fires,” said manager Colleen Christensen.

Charlie Baessler is the chair of the Similkameen Independent WineGrowers and manages Corcelettes Estate Winery.

WATCH BELOW: Ongoing coverage of the Snowy Mountain wildfire near Keremeos, B.C.

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He’s also been contacted by customers wondering if the business is open, to which he says “our white wines are still chilled and our red wines are still very bold!”

The biggest factor affecting tourism is the smoke.

READ MORE: Wildfires continue to rage in Western BC

“There’s some variability in our traffic right now; some wineries are up and some wineries are down,” said Similkameen Independent Winegrowers marketing director Sara Crockett.

Even the wine tour charters are noticing an impact.

“Tourism is quite down. Most of the wineries you walk into, there are no line-ups,” said Ogopogo Tours owner Darren Sweet.

Tourism operators told Global Okanagan despite a heat warning and smoky skies advisory, it’s an optimal time to do a wine tour in the Similkameen Valley.

“They’re open, they’re waiting, they need your business and you just might get even better service because there are no crowds this year,” Sweet said.

The collective message here is clear.

“We want people to know that the Similkameen is a stunning wine region,” Baessler said.

“Come to the Similkameen, you can still have a great experience,” added Christensen.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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