The impact of all the summer smoke on the tourism sector in the Southern Interior was every bit as bad as you might have guessed. Overall it's believed to have accounted for a 30 or 40 percent drop which is about half a million tourism visits. So the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association is doing what it can to build a sustainable industry around the problem. That's just one of the topics we take on as T.O.T.A Vice President Ellen Walker-Matthews stopped in for an interview.
"Our tourism operators are resilient," said Walker-Matthews. "They all came back to the forefront really pushing fall and all the activities in the fall."
The Association's V.P. of Industry and Destination Development said they've gone to the extent of talking to the provincial government officials about how forestry practices might make a difference in the future.
"This is our number one industry in the Thompson Okanagan," she said. "These problems really affect all of the people, our residents, our business operators, our entrepreneurs."
Meanwhile, T.O.T.A. is focussing on building tourism business on the shoulder seasons to get away from the focus on that 45-day-long summer fun part of the year. Part of that strategy is to build around the adventure tourism activities that are great at those times of year. Like our growing rail trail systems.
"There are all kinds of outdoor experiences that really do lend themselves well to cooler temperatures," said Walker-Matthews. She also said building indigenous tourism is a key growth area. "The Interior Salish have an incredible story to tell."