This week marked 100 days since the provincial government put out its first messages about what would become the COVID-19 global pandemic. Since that time, our daily routines have changed dramatically as those who are able to have stayed home and worked together to flatten the curve. Our communities have changed dramatically too, with so many tourism businesses and other industries having to manage unexpected realities, make difficult decisions, and endure hardships as the pandemic has progressed. It has been a time of great change, with businesses adjusting and innovating where necessary.
While there is hopeful anticipation regarding Premier Horgan’s announcement next week to address BC’s phased-in approach to restart the economy, we know that it will take time for consumer trust and confidence to return, especially when it comes to travelling. Government leaders have stated repeatedly that the tourism sector was impacted first, hit hardest, and will take a long while to fully return.
Earlier this week, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments released a joint statement outlining the criteria needed to restart the economy; however, government officials in our province have noted that BC’s reopening plan may not look like those that have been announced in other provinces. In a call this week, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Lisa Beare, reminded businesses of Dr. Henry’s message: when considering reopening, businesses must have a process to reopen safely, ensure safety measures are in place to avoid future outbreaks, and have a plan in case an outbreak does occur.
Based on this, we can guess that many of the physical distancing measures currently in place will likely remain, to some extent, through until the fall. This means many businesses will have to pivot even further to operate while adhering to public health guidelines. We know this creates unease within our industry as we approach what is typically our busiest season. Like you, we are eager to hear more about the plans to reopen our economy and Tourism Kelowna stands ready to reactivate out-of-market advertising when non-essential travel restrictions are eased. Until then, we will continue to connect local consumers with tourism-related businesses that continue to operate, while also assisting consumers with future travel plans and inspiring them to visit our region when it’s time to travel again.
Like the reopening of the economy, the return to travel will also happen in stages. At first, this will be primarily locals and visitors here to see loved ones, including family and friends. As more restrictions are eased, regional travel will resume, bringing visitors from nearby communities to Kelowna. Short-haul travel, primarily travel by car within a six- to eight-hour radius, will follow. Long-haul travel, primarily by air or other means, will take more time, while it will take many months for countries and airlines to restore services for international travel. In the near term, we will look closer to home for visitors and welcome them to our community when it is safe to do so.
As consumers return, it’s very likely that their habits and expectations will have changed, with an increased emphasis on public health measures, safety, and cleanliness. In the coming weeks and months, we will share research insights to help you plan your own business operations and marketing activities as well as the research and consumer insights that will drive our recovery plan.
Request for Feedback
As much has changed in the seven weeks since we issued our first stakeholder survey, we are once again asking for a few minutes of your time to provide us with feedback.
Please complete this short, five-minute survey by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6, to help us gain a better understanding of the direct impact COVID-19 has had on your business. Please select one individual from your organization to complete this survey.
As we look ahead with restrained optimism, we want to take a moment to extend our gratitude to all those who are working on the frontlines to keep us safe, to all the businesses who were able to remain open, and to everyone working hard to keep our communities running as smoothly as possible during these unprecedented times—thank you. We will continue to keep you updated as we watch for the province’s announcement next week. We look forward to welcoming visitors once again when it’s time to travel.
Stay safe. Be well.
President & CEO
If you have questions or updates about your businesses, please contact us at email@example.com.
A list of important resources is available on Tourism Kelowna’s COVID-19 web page and you can sign up for our Industry News Centre bulletins.