How smoky skies impacted what tourists wanted to know about Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How smoky skies impacted what tourists wanted to know about Kamloops

The Thompson River in Kamloops is barely visible through a thick screen of wildfire smoke on Aug. 13, 2018.
August 29, 2018 - 5:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - While some local businesses faced a downturn in numbers during the smoky days in Kamloops this summer, tourists in the city tried to navigate their way through the haze.

Before the smoke settled in Kamloops earlier this month, some of the most frequently asked questions at the local Visitor Centre revolved around local events, hiking trails and outdoor recreations. But Tourism Kamloops says those questions shifted around the third week of August.

Is it safe to travel? How close are the fires? Where can I travel where there isn't smoke? Are there any road closures I should know about? What activities can we do inside?

All of those questions were asked by nearly six per cent of tourists who went to the Visitor Centre around the third week of August, when air quality began deteriorating in the city. Data showing the financial impact of the smoke on the city's tourism industry isn't available yet, but Monica Dickinson with Tourism Kamloops says she has heard from local business owners about the impact.

"We have heard anecdotally from our golf course partners and the B.C. Wildlife Park that their visitation has also been affected," Dickinson says.

Attendance at the Visitor Centre doesn't paint a full picture of tourism in the city, since Kamloops sees roughly 1.8-million visitors annually compared to the Visitor Centre which sees roughly 20,000.

"Overall, the slight decline in visitation... is fairly common following the August long weekend as the “end” of the summer season starts to near and many areas (across the country) prepare to return to school the third or fourth week of August," Dickinson says. "Where we did see a shift is in the questioning and conversations that were happening at the Visitor Centre once the smoke had set in."

Nearly 50 people per day were going to the Visitor Centre in the first week of August, but that dropped to roughly 34 people per day during the third week.

Dickinson says staff at the centre used Drive B.C., B.C. Wildfire Service, and mountain resort webcams to help people with their questions, and interestingly enough North Americans were less worried or annoyed about fires than international visitors.

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