Alberta floods impact tourism

The devastation felt in Alberta trickled through B.C. even without its own overflows.

The Shuswap felt the ripple of flood waters last week. The devastation felt in Alberta trickled through B.C. even without its own overflows.

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed east of Banff for almost a week due to flooding, halting travel until June 26. Tourism took a hit and concerns are the effects could extend through the summer.

Mayor Nancy Cooper said she thinks the flooding may have a large negative effect on Salmon Arm.

“I’m worried that it’s going to be a difficult summer but we might just have to wait and see,” said Cooper, adding that any way to reach out to Southern Alberta is encouraged.

Robyn Cyr, Shuswap Tourism manager at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, said the Shuswap is more closely tied to Calgary than to Vancouver

“In the Shuswap we have a lot of people who call Calgary their home,” Cyr said.

Tourism halted while the highway was closed and there is a likely possibility that Albertans will choose not to travel as they deal with recovery.

“My sense right now is that people aren’t going to travel,” Cyr said. “It’s a big hit on our tourism industry here. We had a very bad July last year and it’s another hit again so it’s not good.”

Immediate effects were felt in the hospitality industry with people cancelling reservations. Cindy Martynuik, manager at the Podollan Inn, said the inn lost 23 per cent of reservations on Thursday, June 20, when the flooding hit hard and the highway closed. She said it continued to lose five to seven reservations per day as well as one tour bus booking. Martynuik said all the cancellations were from Calgary and said she thought it was a significant impact on revenue.

“It’s not just about the accommodations, it’s about the fact that people aren’t here to spend money in the restaurants and they aren’t doing the activities,” Cyr said.

Heather Bodnarchuk, manager at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort, said the hotel also felt a loss in revenue when the flood hit.

A number of bookings cancelled starting Thursday through to Wednesday when the highway reopened. She said about 10 per cent of business was lost overall and added it was not as busy as it normally is heading into the July long weekend.

Cyr said there is a fine line between hyping up tourism and being respectful of suffering neighbours. She decided not to launch a marketing campaign to draw Albertans to the drier Shuswap.

“I find that quite tasteless,” Cyr said, adding she reached out to Tourism Calgary to see if there were ways to help.

The Visitor Centre was busier than normal while the highway was closed, coordinator Janice Dewitt said.

Staff were busy helping travellers make alternate travel plans through Alberta and most were just passing through.

As for the rest of the summer, the number of Alberta licence plates the Shuswap will see is unpredictable.

“Time will tell; at this point we don’t know,” said Cyr.


Salmon Arm Observer