South Okanagan e-bike tour company keeps rolling despite pandemic hit to tourism - InfoNews

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South Okanagan e-bike tour company keeps rolling despite pandemic hit to tourism

Max Barclay of South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris Inc. poses for a photo. The tour operator has found a niche in this year's COVID-19 ravaged tourism market by providing wine tours for small groups.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris
August 09, 2020 - 8:30 AM

A South Okanagan tour company has found a way to stay in the saddle despite the tourism market being ravaged by restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Max and Debbie Barclay of South Okanagan E-bike Safaris Inc. had to adapt to the times, but they’re making a game of this year’s tourist season with their fledgling company.

“We began last year, with the intention of doing wine and other e-bike tours, but we ended up focusing on wine tours after COVID-19 protocols were introduced,” Max says.

The company doesn’t rent the e-bikes, but instead provides guided tours, or safaris, with them.

The e-bikes are German made and locally purchased. Max says they can accommodate up to eight guests per tour.

For this year, they are focussing on three wine tours: one along the Naramata Bench, one along Black Sage and the other at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos.

The company normally has a van that can meet the customer at their own residence, but the COVID-19 protocols have changed that. They'll now meet their clients at specific locations for a particular tour.

For Naramata, clients meet at Poplar Grove Winery. For Black Sage, they meet at the Oliver tourist office and for Osoyoos they meet at Spirit Ridge. Tours are three and a half to four and a half hours long.

“It’s tough to budget time, though, with wineries now on a reservation system,” Max says, adding it could mean waits or delays depending on the tour schedule.

Max says the tours range in difficulty from Osoyoos (easiest) to Naramata (most difficult) but says a questionnaire on the company’s website is available for those concerned about their fitness level.

“We usually call and explain the difficulty involved in all three tours. Naramata can be the most challenging, at 20 kilometres up and 20 km freewheeling back. If it’s hot out, some people might struggle,” Max says.

In spite of the pandemic, the tour business has increased bookings 15-fold over last year. They are adamant about not spreading the disease, and are limiting outings to families and small, social circles.

Clients need to be 16 years old or older to ride the e-bikes.

For more information, check out the South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris website here.

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