Tourism businesses slow during wildfire season

Summerland wineries, visitor centre affected as tourists ask questions about vacations

As fires continue to burn, tourism-related businesses are noticing a drop in business.

Shannon Brilz, visitor centre coordinator at the Summerland Chamber of Commerec’s Visitor Information Centre, said potential visitors have been calling the centre, asking about the effects of the wildfires and considering whether to cancel their plans to vacation in B.C. this summer.

RELATED: BC Wildfire Service making progress on Okanagan wildfires

Donta Dyer, coordinator of Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive association of wineries, said the fires have kept some visitors away.

She said one winery alone experienced a 60 per cent drop in visitor numbers during the worst of the wildfires in July.

Julian Scholefield, president of Bottleneck Drive, said the news coverage of the wildfires has had an impact on visits to Summerland’s wineries.

“People tend to see the headlines and not come out to the Okanagan,” he said.

“We definitely had a slow weekend last weekend.”

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When evacuation orders were in place in the Garnet Valley area of Summerland and in a portion of the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards was under evacuation, but is now open once again.

Okanagan Crush Pad was also affected, since one of the vineyards is in Garnet Valley. However, the winery itself was not closed due to wildfires.

Dyer said the recent fires have not been as bad as the discussions may indicate.

“It’s not that the whole valley is on fire,” she said.

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“The entire Okanagan is open and welcoming everybody.”

Brilz would like to pass the same message on to tourists considering a trip to Summerland.

“We’re still open and there is lots to do,” she said.

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