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Kelowna's tourism industry feeling some serious heat

Tourism Kelowna CEO Lisanne Ballantyne was quick to admit that the struggles being felt throughout Kelowna’s tourism industry are being felt in markets across the country.

With COVID-19 having put the world basically on pause, no one is going anywhere, let alone to another city to enjoy a spring break trip with the family.

<who>Photo Credit: KelownaNow</who>You won't be seeing Kelowna's beaches this packed for quite some time.

“Businesses like the airport, hotels and restaurants are starting to feel the effects and shut down,” she told KelownaNow.

After hitting two-million passengers in 2019, Kelowna International Airport is projecting a measly 800,000 this year.

Kelowna hotels are currently looking at occupancy rates as low as 4%, possibly up to 10% on a good day, when typically they’re around 55%-60% at this time of year.

Ballantyne said provincially, one-third of hotels have temporarily shut their doors, while the room rate revenue is down 70% across the country.

There’s no doubt that the city’s tourism industry is hurting for a lot of reasons, but the biggest consequence of COVID-19 has been the cancellation of two major events.

First, it was the World Mixed Doubles and Seniors Curling Championships, a loss of more than $1-million in estimated economic impact.

That was a tough loss, but the bigger one came just this week when the CHL cancelled the 2020 Memorial Cup in Kelowna, which was projected to have an economic impact around $10-million.

“That’s why we work so hard to try and secure these major, multi-day events because they’re injecting new cash spending into the communities,” said Ballantyne.

“So we are thrilled to still be working on the Brier for next year, that’s our ray of sunshine right now, and we’re delighted to be working on something positive.”

Ballantyne said Trudeau’s announcement today about 75% wage subsidies was definitely a positive, but for the tourism industry, it really comes down to two sets of conditions.

Those conditions are when public health is declared safe and when restrictions on travel and large gatherings are lifted, only then will the tourism industry start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If that happens in May, it’s possible Kelowna could see a bit of a bounce back in the summer months and a strong fall and winter tourism season.

For now, Ballantyne says the best thing Kelowna residents can do is to stay on top of their local businesses.

Keep an eye on what businesses adjusted hours are, what services they’re still providing and try to support as many as possible through take out and delivery orders, online shopping or even the purchase of gift cards.

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