Fires a burden on tourism

The wildfires ripping through B.C. this month are also negatively impacting communities nowhere near the flames.

Tourism in the South Okanagan during the summer is one of the main sources of revenue for the community and local businesses. Wineries are taking a large hit this summer because tourists are assuming they are closed, said Christa-lee McWatters Bond, Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive president.

"The traffic is down which is unfortunate, because people think that we are on fire, which we clearly are not, if you look out the window," McWatters Bond said.

Tourists from Alberta and Vancouver are usually the main source of visits but "some of the media" has portrayed that there is excessive smoke all over the Okanagan, which is not the case, according to McWatters Bond.   

The floods this spring and the wildfires that followed has many local companies struggling to reach normal sales. 

"We’ve had a challenging start to the summer," said Diana Stirling, owner of The Peach Ice Cream Shop and Locolanding. "People had the perception that we were under water and then that we were smoked out, it has definitely had an impact on our revenue."

Locolanding has been open during their usual seasonal hours since May and has not had to shut down once due to smoke or high water.

Some Okanagan residents post a picture of smoke to their social media, misleading tourists to believe that Penticton is on fire, according to Stirling.

"The majority of us have 60 days to really generate the numbers," she said. "If you lose 23 of those 60 days you can not recover after that."

Between the flooding in the spring, and the perceived fires happening in and around the area, businesses are suffering the effects.

"We just want everyone to know that we are all open for business, and it is a great time to come, because it's not as busy as it usually is," McWatters Bond said.

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