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Okanagan businesses concerned travel restrictions will limit tourism

Last Updated Apr 24, 2021 at 11:33 am PDT

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Summary

Some communities that rely on tourist dollars are not happy with B.C.'s new travel restriction

The rules restrict non-essential travel between health authorities in a bid to stem rising COVID case numbers

Dan Rogers with the Chamber of Commerce in Kelowna, says businesses have been hit hard by COVID, Kelowna is no exception

KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) — Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is vocalizing concerns with the new B.C. wide travel restrictions considering Okanagan businesses depend on tourism.

British Columbians have entered their first week with the new travel order that will prevent people from leaving their health zone.

Read More: B.C. restricts non-essential travel until May 25, fines to be issued for violations

Dan Rogers with the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce says the rules the province implemented this week are not focused on the actual problem.

“One of the issues that we raised some time ago with the province was consideration of regional … restrictions,” he says.

“When we look at what’s happening in the two major health regions in the Lower Mainland … there’s more spread of the disease … than in some locations, and the interior is one of them. If we can [stay open] while the focus is on those hotspot areas, we think that will help the economy and will give people an option to continue their businesses.”

Rogers says some time ago, the Chamber suggested that the Ministry of Health restrict travel into areas with a high transmission rate, “red zones.”

“We continue to make that case. The data is there. And we think it’s a common-sense approach. But yet we haven’t heard back from the government.”

Rogers adds he’s concerned if restrictions are extending into the summer, the tourism industry will take a big hit.

“Small businesses have already been hard hits, and this is a bit of another blow to them. So until we get the details, we don’t know what the extent of that impact will be. But we know it’s going to be another tough one.”

Rogers is calling on the provincial and federal governments to support businesses in these impacted regions financially.

Rogers says it’s likely 10 per cent of businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy if restrictions stay in place.

“It’s important to know too, we’re integrated as much with Albertans as we are with other British Columbians. We want to focus … not where people are from, but what actions they take and ensure that if they do visit, they follow the guidelines that are there … If they come in and don’t follow the guidelines, they don’t wear their masks, they don’t keep their physical distance — we don’t want to see them.”

However, if visitors are following the rules, Rogers says they are welcome.

“We believe that we should focus not where people are from, what license plates on their vehicle, but how they behave and if they behave properly and respect the guidelines.”