Despite the flooding issues surrounding Okanagan Lake the past two months, the summer tourism season got a boost over the Canada Day long weekend, says a Tourism Kelowna official.
Chris Shauf, marketing and communications director with Tourism Kelowna, said the anecdotal response so far from industry stakeholders was upbeat.
“Chatting with the accommodation people in the city, everyone was at or near sell-out which is what we would normally expect for the Canada Day long weekend,” Shauf said.
“There was also good activity levels on the beaches, the wineries and wine tour bookings were busy.”
Of those tourists who stopped at the visitor information centre last weekend, 71 per cent were Canadians, with the highest numbers being from Calgary, Vancouver and Quebec.
On the international side, of the 29 per cent most were from Europe, Washington state and Australia.
Regarding the hotel occupancy statistics, the stats for May 2017 were up 3.8 per cent over the same period in 2016
Shauf said the media reports and social media reach of the flooding across the Okanagan over the past two months has a high awareness level, but he noted marketing efforts this spring were stepped up to help get the message out there that the Central Okanagan was open for vacation business.
“I think when the water levels were at their highest, we were fielding about a dozen calls a day from people wondering if they should still come or cancel their vacation bookings,” Shauf said.
“Those calls have decreased in number as the flood situation has decreased.”
He said as Tourism Kelowna staff fielded calls, they made a point of taking advantage of personal interaction with clients to assure any concerns callers might have and clarify how the flooding would or would not impact their particular plans.
“Hotel operators were also reaching out to customers who had room bookings during the high water flood point to make them aware of the conditions for boating, recommended speeds on the water due to wake restrictions and that sort of stuff,” Shauf said.
“We did the same at the visitor information centre. There is a lot of access through social media to information but I think visitors coming here also appreciate being able to talk to someone in person about their concerns of whether to still come here or not,” he said.
Shauf said tourism stakeholders also appreciated the effort made by the flood emergency response team to get the beaches at City Park, Waterfront park, Boyce-Gyro Park, Cedar Creek Park, Sarson Beach and Paul’s Tomb open for the public last weekend along with the Cook Road, Cedar Creek Park and Water Street boat launches.
“We were grateful for the flood response team efforts to make opening those beaches a priority knowing they also had many other things to deal with. It reflected how important tourism is for our city,” Shauf said.