One Okanagan tourist centre closes, others move online during COVID-19 pandemic - InfoNews

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One Okanagan tourist centre closes, others move online during COVID-19 pandemic

Image Credit: Contribute/Tourism Kelowna
April 06, 2020 - 6:30 AM

One Okanagan tourist centre has closed while others remain in operation online, while Minister of Health Adrian Dix has been adamant that the provincial focus is not on tourism at this time.

“This is not the time, it’s just not the time to travel for tourism purposes within British Columbia or anywhere else. This is the time to stay close, to stay home and, to the maximum extent possible, to only go out for essentials, whether it’s the need to work or other things,”  Dix said in a press conference April 2.

Lake Country council recently made the decision to suspend a $28,000 Lake Country Chamber of Commerce contract to cease tourist operations at the municipality for the next year.

The suspension is to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to documents presented at Lake Country’s regular council meeting on Tuesday, March 31. “The global COVID-19 pandemic is spreading exponentially, worsening daily, and is having far-reaching impacts on public health. Public bodies are doing what they can to limit the spread of the virus through ending non-essential services where viable,” said district and planning manager Jamie McEwan, in the meeting agenda.


READ MORE: Canada's tourism industry braces for impact of new coronavirus on travel

Other tourism centre doors may be closed, but they're still accepting phone calls, emails and some are directing visitors to their websites and social media.

Tourism Kamloops has launched a new website and is conducting a campaign called YKA Strong to support local businesses and provide the public with updated information around COVID-19, said Monica Dickinson, who handles industry relations and communications with Tourism Kamloops.

The website was built as a tool to keep the Kamloops community connected, and for locals to see how local businesses are adapting their strategies during the pandemic. It also provides tools, podcasts, videos and information for residents during the pandemic. They've also launched an Instagram account and are using the hashtag #YKAStrong to drive community support, she said.

Darci Ritchey, manager of the Peachland Visitor Centre, is the only one currently working at the centre and said the centre will launch a new website at the end of the month. She continues to take phone calls and updates social media.

In Penticton, most of the phone calls from tourists have been concerning COVID-19, said Jo Charnock, office and special projects manager with Visit Penticton.

READ MORE: Penticton Tourism braces for COVID-19 impacts

Staff are working remotely, redirecting phone calls and sharing information through social media, she said.

Staff at Tourism Kelowna continue to assist visitors with future travel questions, as non-essential travel is not recommended, said Chris Shauf, director of marketing and communications.

Although the physical location is closed, visitor services are still being provided through a web chat service, telephone, email, and social media.

Vernon's tourism centre did not immediately return a request for comment.

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