Tourism operators throughout B.C., have been struggling amid a global pandemic that has forced many travellers to cancel trips, and a COVID-19 exposure event in B.C.'s Interior doesn't help.
In an emailed statement to local media, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said that since the province has not implemented travel restrictions between provinces, tourists will come to the area.
"Dr. Henry has asked that people coming to our communities from outside regions use their "travel manners" and respect the physical distancing rules and proper hygiene orders," Basran said.
"If people don't do that, the risk of COVID transmission is going to increase, so everyone needs to continue to take this health risk seriously and take the necessary precautions."
In advance of the tourism season, he said the city helped local businesses comply with public health orders, which included making the main road in downtown Kelowna pedestrian to allow for safe physical distancing.
He also said bylaw enforcement and RCMP bike patrols have been visiting parks and beaches to talk to folks about physical distancing.
Tourism Kelowna has already been struggling this summer; in fact, the organization had requested money from the City of Kelowna, and although city staff recommended siphoning that money from a budget meant for affordable housing, the motion to do so was defeated.
Director of Marketing and Communications Chris Shauf said the request came because revenue is down, primarily because hotels pay a municipal and regional district tax and since many hotels struggled through the spring, the tax they paid was significantly less.
"Travel simply wasn't happening," Shauf said.
"But what we needed to do was refocus and recalibrate our efforts to help local businesses survive and persevere through that time and that was really focusing on what we could do to connect consumers with businesses locally."
Although travel between provinces is allowed, Shauf said the organization is focused on marketing within British Columbia. Part of the decision to keep marketing local and not open up to Alberta was based on surveys sent to residents in early June asking their comfort level with welcoming tourists to the city.
According to Shauf, more than half of the respondents were comfortable with people visiting from out of town.
"What we heard in that survey was that there is an understanding that tourism fuels our local economy and is an important contributor to our economy and jobs," Shauf said.
Regardless of the recent exposure event in Kelowna, Shauf said the plan to market Kelowna as an appealing destination will move forward.
"We make wise marketing decisions that are based on research," he said.
"This year was different though. The plan has been put together but we are adjusting it as needed. And it's also important to note that recovery is not something that happens overnight or in a week or even in a season. We expect that the tourism industry is going to take years to get back to levels that we [normally] receive."