Tourism toll not that bad

Summer was not as bad as it could have been for the Kelowna tourism industry.

Coming on the heels of historic floods, devastating wildfires, and constant thick smoke, tourism numbers were surprisingly strong.

That according to Tourism Kelowna, which bases much of its anecdotal numbers of hotel stays.

Newly hired president and CEO Lisanne Ballantyne says summer numbers were only down slightly from a year ago, but Kelowna bounced back nicely in September.

She said it was the lingering smoke and not the floods or fires which affected hotel stays.

"Our overall hotel occupancy was only down slightly, about 1.4 per cent down from the same period of 2016. We're okay with that. 2016 was a strong growth year," said Ballantyne.

"What's interesting, for the month of September, we were at 82.2 per cent occupancy. That's actually ahead of September last year. The hit we took as a tourist industry was related specifically to our key months of July and August. We rebounded quite nicely."

She said the effect felt was more on length of stay and not with people cancelling their bookings.

Other tourism businesses who earn much of their income from water-related activities felt more of a pinch. Those numbers are not tracked by Tourism Kelowna.

However, she says other businesses within the industry have other issues they are dealing with.

"In the industry, we are very much watching things like short-term vacation rentals, we are monitoring things in the transportation sector like ride sharing.

"On the legislation side, things like the pending move to $15 minimum wage and how the new cannabis legislation are going to affect us."

Ballantyne said those in the industry are asking that they are treated fairly, with the same regulations and customer service, safety and quality certifications as those entering the market.

At the same time, construction is now underway on the new waterfront tourist centre. Ballantyne says, weather permitting, the slab should be done soon.

The centre is slated to open sometime in mid-2018.

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