July 21, 2016 - 11:30 AM
VERNON - Cool, rainy weather over the past few weeks may have put a bit of a damper on tourism during the first leg of summer in the North Okanagan, but it appears most visitors were determined to stick to their vacation plans even if it meant packing a raincoat.
The Vernon Visitor Centre is reporting a slight dip in the number of visitors, down about 5.6 per cent for the month of July, although overall numbers are still up by 7.4 per cent year to date, says Vernon Tourism Manager Ange Chew.
“We’ve received some comments from outdoor activity operators that their business has been impacted by the lack of sunshine,” she says. “We’re hoping with the heat and sun coming it will turn that around.”
Lianne Marquis, with Kalavida Surf Shop, says the business is extremely weather-dependent and has definitely been affected by the cooler, rainier and windier weather over the past month.
“When it’s sunny and hot and nice and warm, the beach is busy and we’re busy,” Marquis says. “Business-wise, it’s been an up and down type year.”
She says the surf shop enjoyed a busy start to the year with unusually warm weather this spring.
“Back in April, we were busy at 9 a.m. with people renting boards. It’s definitely been a roller-coaster year,” she says.
And while the cooler weather might be dissuading people from a dip in the lake, it hasn’t seemed to keep too many people from the North Okanagan. According to Chew, municipal hotel tax revenue was pacing 19 per cent ahead of 2015 — a record year — as of April. Due to a three-month lag, the city doesn’t know yet know what the hotel tax figures will be for May, June and July, however Chew doubts it will be much lower.
“Our hotel partners said they are pacing on par or slightly ahead of July of last year, so it doesn’t seem like the weather is playing that much of an impact on visitation,” Chew says.
On average, hotels and full hook-up RV parks in Vernon are reporting an 85 per cent occupancy rate on the weekends, with slightly more availability on weekdays, she says, adding most visitors hail from the Lower Mainland, Calgary, Edmonton and Alberta.
Perhaps the hardest hit by poor weather in the accommodation sector is campgrounds, but even they are reporting minimal impacts.
Dwight Cousins owns Cedar Falls Campground in Vernon and says they’ve noticed a bit of a slow down due to the weather, but not much.
“We didn’t suffer too much at all,” he says. “We’ve had the odd cancellation, but people are determined to come. As long as people come prepared, they’re going to come camping.”
With lots of heat and sun in the forecast, he says business is really picking up.
“Our phone just doesn’t stop,” he says.
As Chew points out, there was a silver lining in all those rainclouds.
“I have to say, I went camping this weekend and I loved the fact we could have a campfire,” she says.
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