The Mount Law wildfire seen from downtown Kelowna on Sunday, Aug. 15, just hours after the fire was first spotted. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association urges tourists to postpone vacation

Exercise caution, common sense says chief executive officer

Okanagan tourism organizations are urging tourists to exercise common sense if they are still wanting to drive into the Southern Interior for non-essential travel.

The association is telling tourists to follow provincial guidelines on non-essential travel due to the ongoing wildfires in the Thompson-Okanagan region. Postpone for a few days if they can and follow provincial orders to make sure everyone is safe.

“Safety is our number one concern. We are following provincial announcements very carefully to make sure everyone is safe, even if some places are opening up now,” said TOTA chief executive officer Ellen Walker-Matthews.

The statement comes after the provincial safety minister urged travellers to avoid non-essential travel into the Southern Interior due to the wildfires in the region. While the association is expecting the provincial messaging to impact tourism in the region, it does not expect it to last for longer than a few days.

“We are definitely expecting impacts to tourism but hoping that it will only be a shorter period of time, especially with cooler temperatures right now,” said Walker-Matthews.

Tourism Kelowna also made a similar statement. “We’re asking everyone to do their part, be mindful of the conditions, and make safe and responsible decisions. Please follow the guidance from any emergency response personnel in place and if adhere to any alerts or orders in place,” it said in an emailed statement. “Please stay clear from any areas where a response effort is underway to help emergency responders do their important work.”

TOTA is reminding everyone that the situation remains dynamic and unpredictable and tourists should exercise caution if they still choose to vacation in the region. “Again, we want everyone to follow provincial guidelines and make sure to stay safe during this time,” added Walker-Matthews.

TOTA did not comment specifically on the number of reservations that have been impacted by wildfires or non-essential travel requests.

Airbnb has activated its extenuating circumstances policy on July 23 for reservations in impacted areas of B.C. It currently pertains to reservations booked before July 23 and checking in between July 23 and Aug. 21.

“Hosts and guests with eligible reservations can cancel penalty-free through this policy. We are closely monitoring the situation and following guidance from emergency management authorities on the ground,” said Airbnb in an email.

VRBO said that natural disasters do not override the cancellation policy set by the host and agreed to by the guest when they book. It recommends that travellers buy travel insurance that provides the right coverage to help protect their vacation plans.

READ MORE: UPDATE: 1 structure damaged, Mount Law wildfire evac order lifted for most in West Kelowna


@paulatr12
paula.tran@kelownacapnews.com

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