Guests welcome, says Tourism Kelowna, but research recommended before visiting Okanagan

13 COVID-19 cases now linked to private parties in Kelowna involving tourists.

Tourism Kelowna says it’s welcoming tourists to the Central Okanagan despite a cluster of COVID-19 cases connected to Kelowna.

On Saturday, Interior Health announced an outbreak of eight COVID-19 cases in the city’s downtown and waterfront areas, a number that increased to 13 on Monday.

“We are in Stage 3 of (B.C.’s) restart, travel within the province is allowed and permitted, and, as such, we are welcoming people to come here for their summer vacations,” said Chris Shauf, Tourism Kelowna’s director of marketing and communications.

“Travel is a personal decision and people are going to have different levels of comfort and we want to make sure that people are aware of what’s going on.”

Read more: Kelowna COVID-19 outbreaks linked to hotel parties: B.C. health minister

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A party involving some Metro Vancouver residents is being blamed for the COVID-19 outbreak in downtown Kelowna.

The cases were linked to gatherings at Discovery Bay Resort July 1-5, and Boyce Gyro Beach Lodge on July 1.

According to IHA, the cases involved people who live in three regions of B.C.: the Interior, Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health regions.

“Of course, public health and safety are of utmost importance to us, so we want travelers that are coming here to call ahead, to check in,  to do the research,” Shauf told Global News.

“We have information posted on our website, through our social media channels, so that people can know before they go and that they can make informed decisions.”

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Shauf said tourists have plenty of activities to enjoy in the Kelowna area in a safe manner.

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“There are many things that people can do outside in ‘large spaces and fewer faces’ to quote Dr. Bonnie Henry and we’re wanting to make people know that and enjoy it,” Shauf said.

On Monday, the city’s mayor urged locals and tourists to remain vigilant.

“We’ve seen how quickly a few lapses in judgment can turn into a serious problem,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.

Read more: Coronavirus: Okanagan tourism on upswing despite pandemic

With no travel restrictions in place within Canada, Basran said people will come to vacation in Kelowna but added that he hoped they would do so responsibly.

“Dr. Henry has asked that people coming to our communities from outside regions to use their ‘travel manners’ and respect the physical distancing rules and proper hygiene orders,” Basran said.

Basran said the city is doing its part to make sure everyone is staying safe including helping local businesses comply with public health orders and Worksafe BC requirements by expanding commercial space onto sidewalks to allow for safe physical distancing.

He also said the city will continue promoting safety during the global pandemic and tourism season.

“Our Bylaw Enforcement staff and RCMP bike patrols are visiting parks and beaches to educate people on the need to physical distance when they see crowding in one area,” he said.

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For anyone wanting to vacation in Kelowna but concerned, Tourism Kelowna recommends visitors check out its website for the most up-to-date information or call individual businesses to learn what their operating practices are during the global pandemic.

“You can still have great and enjoyable experiences,” Shauf said.

Click here for a link to Tourism Kelowna’s website.