The province has lifted the travel ban to interior communities except West Kelowna

Travel ban lifted for some

UPDATE: 4:45 p.m.

An accommodation travel ban imposed by the provincial government to interior regions impacted by wildfires has been partially lifted.

During a brief news conference Tuesday afternoon, Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma announced the ban will be lifted effective at midnight tonight for all communities except West Kelowna.

"I am pleased to share that the emergency travel/accommodation order has had the desired effect that we needed...opening thousands of hotel rooms up for first responders, for evacuees, for critical response personnel to be housed in order to support people here and across the region," said Ma.

"We know that communities right across the interior are looking forward to welcoming tourists back into their communities like the City of Kelowna who are open for people to visit."

Ma did ask that tourists remain mindful that there are still communities being affected by wildfires burning across the region.

"We have heard from communities like West Kelowna in particular, Lake Country and the Shuswap that now is not the time to visit them.

"For tourist and travellers, please still continue to avoid all non-essential travel to West Kelowna, to Lake Country, to the Shuswap and to any other communities messaging out to the world that now is not the best time to visit."

For other communities, she invited people to "recreate responsibly."

Ma said there could still be changes in the order as conditions change.

ORIGINAL: 3:30 p.m.

Tourism and hotel groups in the Interior have asked the B.C. government to let the tourists back into the region as soon as possible.

While pointing out that their “hearts are with those evacuated and those that have lost their homes” to the wildfires that have ravaged the Central Okanagan since last Thursday, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and BC Hotel Association want the provincial government to expedite the lifting of the order prohibiting non-essential travel into Southern Interior areas to stay in temporary accommodation.

The ban is in place until Sept. 4, but TOTA and BCHA say the numbers prove it is not necessary. The groups are asking for the ban to be lifted safely and quickly, especially in areas like Oliver, Penticton, Summerland, Vernon and Kamloops, “where accommodation is not currently being fully utilized to support evacuation efforts,” according to TOTA CEO Ellen Walker-Matthews.

TOTA and BCHA said the travel ban has “decimated the tourism industry in a critical time of the season, resulting in tremendous financial repercussions.”

The groups are also seeking reparations from the provincial government to make up for the financial losses incurred by the travel ban.

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