New B.C. travel restrictions likely to hit Okanagan harder than Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New B.C. travel restrictions likely to hit Okanagan harder than Kamloops

April 24, 2021 - 7:30 AM

New B.C. travel restrictions aimed at preventing Lower Mainland tourists from visiting the Interior over the next five weeks could make hotels in the Okanagan suffer more than they have so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the different nature of the hotel business in Kamloops, they may not suffer as badly, Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the B.C. Hotel association told Friday, April 23.

“The Okanagan has done very, very well, when it comes to the last year, comparatively,” she said “The rest of the province was devastated. In the Okanagan, there were properties that actually had an extremely good year.”

New travel restrictions were announced by Premier John Horgan on Monday but the details about what they will look like came out Friday.

READ MORE: B.C. restricts travel to and from Interior and Lower Mainland to stop COVID-19 spread

Essentially, the new orders prevent Lower Mainland residents from traveling to the Interior Health region for non-essential reasons.

The Okanagan is such a tourist destination that weathered the 2020 pandemic better than most, Jarrett said.

“Kamloops has a slightly different demand mechanism,” she said. “They have more essential travel because of the pipeline and mining so they have a lot of big construction and big industry projects there where the Okanagan is more leisure-orientated.”

Travelling for work is considered essential so the travel restrictions may have less of an impact in Kamloops, but Jarrett won’t know for sure until the data is compiled in the coming weeks.

When the initial announcement was made Monday, there was an immediate response.

“As soon as Premier Horgan announced (the travel restrictions) on Monday, hundreds of thousands of dollars were cancelled, in the period of an hour,” Jarrett said. “It was devastating.

“We worked really hard this week to say: 'How do we manage this?' The last thing government wants to do –  and the last thing we want to do – is to see 30 per cent of our industry go bankrupt overnight, by the end of May.”

The association has created a “toolkit” for members, advising them of what to say to customers, encouraging them to obey the rules and reschedule vacations.

The hotels are not an enforcement agency, only an educational tool, Jarrett said.

“Currently, we're not hearing any negative comments from customers that are currently booked and moving reservations,” she said.

That’s not to say there isn’t push back from would-be vacation travellers.

“It goes from ‘I’m going to do whatever I need to do because I love coming to your resort and I want you to still be here next year’ to ‘nobody is going to tell me what to do,’” she said.

Jarrett stressed that while this is hard on struggling hotels it needs to be done if there’s any hope of having a good summer after restriction are lifted, which is scheduled to happen after May 25.

Short-term rental agencies, such as Airbnb, are not members of the association but they have been asked to take the same steps as hotels and encourage people not to travel, she said.

“I am very hopeful that they will play a lead role as well,” she said, noting owners of the rental are usually residents of their communities, which often have regulations governing that industry," she said.

“The other partner in this are municipalities,” Jarrett said. “Municipalities also have to be able to say: ‘Those people who have short term rentals and Airbnb’s, please restrict travel that is non-essential during this time frame.’ It’s going to take all of us. They (municipalities) are the ones that can publicly come out and support these orders, especially in resort communities.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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