Summer tourism was on a roll in Vernon until an Interior travel ban was enacted due to wildfires in the region.
“When the travel ban came into effect, Vernon hotels went from roughly 95 per cent full to nearly empty… overnight,” says Tourism Vernon's Torrie Silverthorn.
The fires and subsequent travel advisory had a serious impact on Vernon’s tourism businesses, particularly hotels.
Everyone was ready to do their part to accept evacuees and support firefighting efforts, but Silverthorn said Vernon hotel rooms remained empty for the days and weeks following the ban.
She said while hotels and businesses were understanding of the travel advisory and its reason for implementation, the need for rooms for evacuees was "never fully realized" in Vernon.
According to Silverthorn, the tourism sector in the entire city has been affected by the “finanical loss of an abrupt, early end to the busy tourism season.”
The travel ban came into effect on Aug. 19, and some Vernon businesses closed early and saw cancellations for the season. Splashdown, Vernon’s waterslides, shut down early and SilverStar mountain resort saw reservation cancellations.
Despite the sudden end to Vernon’s peak tourism season, Silverthorn said this summer went very well for most businesses.
“Visitation was similar or just slightly down compared to [the] 2022 summer season. Keeping in mind 2022 was a banner year for tourism in Vernon, we’re pleased with Vernon 2023.”
Vernon has seen steady growth in its tourism sector and remains on track to welcome roughly one million visitors in 2023.
In an attempt to recoup some of August’s lost revenue, Tourism Vernon launched a $100,000 marketing and promotions plan in the first week of September.
Silverthorn said the majority of visitors to Vernon are in the summer months, but fall and winter visitation has been growing steadily.
“Early indications point to a rebound and the return of the fall visitor,” Silverthorn said.