Editorial: Diversify to survive

Our economic drivers are at the mercy of nature

It’s national tourism week from May 26 to June 2.

From the grasslands of Keremeos to the mountain trails of Revelstoke, the B.C. Interior has a lot to show the world.

Tourism has long been one of the economic drivers of the region, along with agriculture, leading to Penticton’s “peaches and beaches” tag, though wines and vines have been added to that these days.

Tourism continues to grow throughout the region, especially as the varied tourism groups do their best to increase tourism year-round.

But over the last two years, there have been setbacks as we dealt with flooding and smoke-filled skies.

Though it has been a struggle over the past two years, the smoke and water were far from wiping out our tourist-oriented activities. While some days were too smoky to be comfortable, there were many sunny days as well.

This year, the Interior escaped, so far, the severe flooding of the past two years, though, in return, we may be facing a summer drought, which could heighten the chances for severe forest fires.

Whether we get serious fires this year or not, it is something that has to be taken into account when looking to tourism’s future. Trying to pretend fires and floods don’t exist isn’t a path forward though.

The question we also have to ask is whether we have come to rely on tourism too much to keep our economy going. There have been encouraging signs over the past few years, like the growth we’ve seen in the high tech sector.

Perhaps the same principle could be applied to the tourism sector. Instead of peaches and beaches in the south, houseboats on the Shuswap and other regional specialties, we need to look for new tourism activities, ones that might not be affected by floods and fires; back to looking at the shoulder season again.

Like tourism, agriculture is subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Both will always be powerful economic drivers, but we need to draw a wider variety of industries here while supporting existing ones and helping them expand past where a few smoky days could damage them severely.

-Black Press

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