Tourism operators in the Okanagan may see a bounce back in revenues as early as the summer

Tourism ready for rebound

The head of Tourism Kelowna says summer in the Okanagan could be a good news, bad news scenario for businesses within the tourism industry.

Speaking to city council Monday, executive director Lisanne Ballantyne says businesses took a significant hit in the pocketbook as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions, and the hope is some of those revenues could begin to return in the summer.

That could align with news from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who stated earlier Monday, all British Columbians who want a vaccination should have access to one dose by the end of July.

"Right now, local tourism businesses are not expected to see revenues begin to return until the summer," Ballentyne told council.

"Their ability to recover lost revenues to date remains uncertain."

Because about 91 per cent of all tourist travel into the Okanagan comes from Canadian tourists, Ballantyne says the region is in a better position than most to recover from the affects of the pandemic.

"The good news is that Kelowna is well positioned with our domestic travel market for an earlier tourism recovery than other parts of B.C. that are more dependent on international and group travel."

In fact, she says a survey released by Destination BC shows 62 per cent of residents already feel safe to travel to nearby communities while 77 per cent would be comfortable to visit a beach or lake.

But, there is a downside, specifically the hotel and motel industry which continues to struggle.

"If we are fortunate enough to have a busy summer, they will also struggle on the staff side."

Ballentyne says Tourism Kelowna has also had to shift the way it operates.

She says the association's 2021 budget is just $2.7 million, about $2 million less than previous years.

Staff layoffs as a result of the pandemic are now permanent.

"We laid off two full-time staff. We had to reduce all of our part-time staff at the visitor centre as well as contract and sales staff.

"We are trying to do more with less."

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