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Kelowna  

Kelowna ready for visitors

Local residents may be on high alert as Okanagan Lake continues to rise, but Chris Shauf says Kelowna will be “open for business” over the long weekend.

Tourism Kelowna’s director of marketing says the May long weekend is one of the busiest tourism weekends of the year for Kelowna, and that the city should fill with visitors despite persistent flood warnings.

“Right now Kelowna is open for business, and welcoming,” Shauf said, pointing out that most everything will be open over the weekend, regardless of the conditions.

As a kind of “kickoff” to the tourist season, Shauf says the May long weekend is an important one for the city, as visitors have extra time to take in what the city has to offer.

“Any time that there’s a long weekend, people have an extra day and they can spend a little bit of extra time exploring that new destination,” he says. “We do see an additional increase in traffic, in numbers, when it is a long weekend.”

Shauf says visitation to Kelowna has been on the rise in recent years, with more than 1.9 million people passing through last year.

Those visitors spent $337 million, which was 21 per cent more than 2011. That makes tourism the third-largest employer by industry behind health care and construction, accounting for 11,890 jobs here.

“When you’re talking about tourism, it’s such an important and vital industry to local business. [It provides] taxation that pays for services and improvements that residents like … so we want to do whatever we can to make sure that people know that Kelowna is a fantastic destination,” Shauf says.

Nevertheless, the flood warnings will still have at least some impact on the number of visitors the city sees this weekend.

Shauf says it’s hard to predict with much accuracy exactly how many people might avoid the city, but said accommodations are getting calls from customers concerned about the conditions.



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