With the May long weekend just around the corner, Okanagan tourism operators are hoping to see the usual large contingent of visitors from Alberta.
However, there is some concern that recent political disputes are discouraging B.C.’s neighbours from heading west.
Vernon’s Predator Ridge resort has launched a campaign to convince Albertans to keep B.C. in their travel plans this summer.
That campaign includes billboards in Alberta’s two largest cities and a “we love Alberta” website.
“In no way are we trying to be political. We are trying to protect a very important customer base,” said Brad Pelletier, the resort’s parent company’s Okanagan vice president.
Indeed, the development and golf resort said more than 40 per cent of its home buyers last year were Albertans.
So it’s pushing back at the boycott-B.C. talk, that, along with smokey skies, the resort believes is keeping some away.
“Last year we definitely saw the impacts and talking to some other operators, everyone saw the impacts into the region,” Pelletier said.
“We cannot afford to not do something about that because everybody here has an association with that province and we’ve always operated like we have no border to our east.”
Tourism Vernon confirms Predator Ridge is not the only local tourist business reporting slumping Alberta visits, but overall tourism to the Vernon area is up, it said.
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However, tourism manager Angeline Chew can’t say if it is politics keeping people away.
Instead, she believes the state of the Alberta economy may have deterred some visitors in the past.
Chew said the Okanagan shouldn’t count Albertans out this year, though.
“We still have a very strong contingent that comes from Alberta and they are very important to the Okanagan, so we just hope that we continue to build that ongoing relationship,” Chew said.
Predator Ridge is certainly hoping its “we love Alberta” message will be enough to keep the resort in Albertans’ travel plans.
After B.C., Chew said, Calgary and Edmonton are the two largest sources of tourists who come to the Okanagan.