Okanagan Local Businesses Need Help More Than Ever

August 29, 2023


PENTICTON – Although the Travel Ban has been lifted, its affects will continue to be felt for the remainder of Penticton’s high season. The loss of Ironman and many other tourist bookings are leaving businesses with a void in customers that the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce is urging locals to fill.

“It isn’t often that we have an opportunity in August, on what would be Ironman weekend of all times, to be a tourist in our own City,” says Nicole Clark, President of the Chamber. “And while we know that we can’t replace all of the traffic the last two weeks in August brings to Penticton, this is the time to show our restaurants, our wineries, and all those recreation, adventure, and retail outlets that we value and support them.”

Unfortunately, the loss for tourist-dependent industries like hotels and wineries is quite significant.

“A signature event like Ironman is something that we bank on because it provides our tourist and hospitality-based businesses with that financial injection they need to help pay their fixed costs during the offseason,” explains Michael Magnusson, the Chamber’s Executive Director. “Instituting a travel ban that resulted in Ironman’s cancellation and curtailed other visitors coming into our City, especially when we see how very little the actual need was for these rooms, is both confusing and disheartening to say the least. I think we all believed that when the provincial government imposed the ban, there was a very real and urgent need to provide shelter to hundreds of people displaced by the wildfire.”

Hotels were quick to inform and vacate their guests when the travel ban was announced, followed by processing the cancellation of hundreds of room nights in expectation that droves of evacuees would soon be arriving, however, those rooms continue to sit empty at a cost of hundreds of thousands in lost revenues to accommodators in August alone.

Another unintended result of the travel ban is the abuse being aimed at front-line workers. The Chamber has heard from multiple businesses of customers yelling and making threats when demanding their non-refundable deposit be returned.

“What I am looking for, not just for my company but for all my fellow tourism operators, owners, and employees, is empathy,” says Lyndie Hill, Chamber Director and owner of Hoodoo Adventures. “I am asking customers to go back and read the cancellation policy they agreed to at the time of their purchase before threatening the young staff member on the other end of the phone that you are going to tarnish the good name of the business they work for, online, and to the public. I am asking that people understand we have had to implement non-refundable deposits because of the uncertainty that now exists in order to protect our businesses whenever tragedy, like fires, floods, and pandemics, exist.  It is why we encourage people to get trip cancellation insurance.  This is of course a terrible situation for all, but I ask for everyone’s support in keeping our businesses’ doors open after so many years of hardships and to have some understanding for the enormity of what they are facing.”

The Chamber will be joining the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and the BC Hotel Association in advocating for the financial support that is necessary to offset the losses incurred by the travel ban.

In the meantime, the Chamber wishes to extend its gratitude to all of the structural and wildland firefighters who are working to protect homes and critical infrastructure, and our hearts go out to everyone impacted by the wildfires both to the north and south of us.

Michael Magnusson is the Executive Director of the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce

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