Travellers urged to be cautious as B.C. wildfires rage on
If you’re going on a road trip, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. That’s the message from tourism officials as fires burn in the Okanagan and beyond.
In the South Okanagan, it appears would-be vacationers are being careful.
“We’re experiencing what I call a tidal wave of cancellations,” says Howard Rensler, manager of the Westridge Motor Inn in Osoyoos. Rensler says over the past week, he’s had hundreds of people calling the motel to cancel their reservations or ask just how bad the air quality is in Osoyoos.
“They had planned to come to Osoyoos for recreational, vacation-type experiences, and those are likely compromised by the fires and smoke and everything else.”
For Rensler, the cancellations are concerning. The motel makes 90 per cent of its money in the summer months. Pandemic losses now coupled with wildfires has the motel manager wondering what the future holds.
“I’m expecting locusts next,” Rensler says jokingly.
At least two other Osoyoos accommodations tell CTV News they’re dealing with an influx of cancelled bookings as well. Local attractions in the area are also taking a hit, largely because of the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire burning east of the city.
“It’s definitely impacting our wineries and tourism,” says Sarah Lefebvre, president of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association. “If you’re coming to this area, we want you to be prepared. We want you to plan ahead. We want you to be flexible with what may come.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Sue McKortoff, the mayor of Osyoos.
“It’s pretty grey here right now. We don’t know how long it’s going to last. So, my suggestion is please do your homework before you venture up here.”
The Tourism Industry Association of B.C. (TIABC) is urging prospective travellers not to cancel plans, but to find the places in B.C. that aren’t currently dealing with wildfires.
“We have large areas of land in this province that people can visit,” says Vivek Sharma, TIABC chair. “We’re encouraging all visitors to go to the Destination BC website to get the latest update of what is happening with wildfires.”
Despite the smoky skies above Osoyoos, Rensler’s motel and many more are open for business. But, he admits now might not be the best time to visit.
“If you’re coming because you want to experience all of the outdoor activities that can be done in Osoyoos, you might want to wait a week or two.”