Update – BC Wildfires: Tourism Industry

TOTA Response to Wildfires and Provincial State of Emergency

Update BC Wildfires: Economic Impact Survey

To all industry stakeholders and DMO’s,

Once again, I would like to thank you all for your support and feedback over the last two weeks. I continue to be humbled by the selflessness emerging from within our industry as people open their doors, hearts, and pockets to help those affected by the current wildfire situation.

Firstly, I did want to reassure everyone that, despite our best efforts to support those displaced, we are very much actively working to promote the idea that the BC Tourism Industry is open for business, as we know how crucial it is to balance the messaging in times of mass media attention. We are working closely with Destination BC to ensure that articles are in circulation, that we are available for media requests and quotes, and we are getting on as many radio stations as possible from Vancouver to Calgary. Click here to listen to a recent clip of Maya Lange, VP of Global Marketing at Destination BC speaking on AM 770 – Alberta Morning News. Our consumer marketing efforts are in full swing and our social media team is providing visitor services online to those with questions or concerns about travelling through the area.

Secondly, in an attempt to best communicate our collective voice, TOTA is currently seeking to collect information from stakeholders and communities regarding the economic impact the current wildfire situation has had on tourism businesses throughout the region. Our goal is to provide the provincial government with a comprehensive overview of the effects on businesses both in directly affected and unaffected areas.

We would greatly appreciate your participation as we work to best manage this moving forward. This is an opportunity to bring your own experience to the table (at either end of the spectrum) by completing a short survey.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Glenn Mandziuk, President & CEO
Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

—————————————-

Update BC Wildfires: Tourism Industry Future – July 18, 2017

To all industry stakeholders and DMO’s,

Firstly, I would like to extend my gratitude to the members of our community who have opened up their homes, hearts, and persevered through harrowing conditions to help those affected by the current wildfires. Our emergency services personnel are working exceptionally hard and are making significant progress, and I truly thank every single one of you doing your best to help those evacuated. It’s warming that in times of need, we can come together as an industry and be there for our neighbours and friends, both old and new.

Approximately 47,000 people have been displaced by the fires across the province, with 155 currently burning across 3,200 square kilometres.  The Princeton fire is now 30% contained, the Lake Country/Okanagan Centre fire is 80% contained, Elephant Hill (formerly known as Ashcroft Reserve) is 30% contained, and the Little Fort Complex fires are 30%, 80%, and 100% contained. The absence of wind over the past couple of days has allowed firefighters to make progress on the fire lines, with no significant evacuation orders or alerts since Saturday. “We’ve had a relatively calm few days,” says Kevin Skrepnek, information officer of the B.C. Wildfire Service. “That downturn in activity has been everything to do with the wind. Wind has been our most significant challenge.”

Our thoughts will continue to be with everyone affected.

Secondly, I would like to thank you all for reading and responding to my emails. I have been overwhelmed by the messages pouring in, and am grateful for your candour, your feedback, and the real-time updates you have been providing me during this time.

Please know, I hear your concerns. It is disheartening to hear about the devastation in the affected areas, but also the impact it has had on businesses outside of evacuated areas. We have heard similar stories from numerous operators about cancellations and loss of business, despite being in fire-free zones. We are forwarding all of your concerns to the proper authorities, and bringing these conversations to the table. We will continue to elevate your messages and take them to our provincial superiors.

Right now, the focus is on the people and businesses directly affected by the wildfires. Those that are needing to evacuate, those that have lost their homes, their livelihood, who are displaced by this tragedy. Once we get through this, when the fires have been extinguished and the State of Emergency lifted, we will ensure that there is conversation about how we, as a tourism industry, will recover both regionally and provincially. The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association will be a part of that dialogue, fighting for our stakeholders and the future of our industry.

Economic recovery will be a critical area of focus and the British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA) have initiated their Economic Disaster Recover Program (EDRP) to assist affected communities. The creation of a business hotline is underway and I will notify you once that is available. They are currently calling for volunteers for Economic Recovery Teams and those that are interested should indicate their interest here.

We also encourage impacted businesses and communities to download the EDRP Manual for important tips on dealing with the current situation.

In the meantime, we continue to welcome constructive conversations, creative solutions, and thoughtful ideas as to how we might be able to best move forward from this, and how to manage the future. Our consumer marketing efforts will continue to promote travel to the region, and please continue to forward updates and photos to Ellen at industry@totabc.com so we can amplify these messages.

Your insights are extremely beneficial so please continue to keep me apprised of where you are at and how you are doing. We can also connect you with resources should you require, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Once again, if you are able to help, I encourage you all to support your local Red Cross and we will continue to offer our support to those in need during this time.

Sincerely,

Glenn Mandziuk, President & CEO
Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

—————————————-

Update BC Wildfires: Tourism Industry Action – July 14, 2017

To all industry stakeholders and DMO’s,

To say that I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to my last two emails would be an understatement. The amount of support that has emerged from within the industry, the thoughtful conversations that have taken place, and the desire to work through this together have made me prouder than ever to be part of this community.

As of Friday, July 14, the province of British Columbia is still in declared State of Emergency. There are now 167 wildfires burning throughout the province, the decrease due to both favourable weather conditions, and the persistent efforts of our incredible first responders. Of note, the Ashcroft fire has grown to 13,100 hectares, while the Princeton fire is now 35% contained, and the Dunn Lake fire is 20% contained.

Our thoughts are with all those affected and we will continue to offer our support to those in need during this time.

As an industry, it is important that we are sensitive to the communities, businesses, and people impacted, opening our doors or lending a hand in whatever way we can. I’d like to congratulate Tourism Kamloops in doing an incredible job at doing just that. They have been working diligently to assist evacuees and distressed travellers from neighbouring communities. The visitor centre has extended their hours, allowing campers to park overnight and utilize their facilities. This kind of leadership during this critical time is an inspiration.

As many events have changed scope as a result of the fires, Kamloops accommodators still have vacancy – both for travellers and evacuees alike. We have heard from so many operators, far outside the bounds of the fires, with available rooms, abundant cancellations, and a disheartening loss of revenue. I hear you. And we are doing our best, with coordinating efforts with Destination BC, to clarify the messaging surrounding it all. As I have mentioned in my previous emails, we have been and will continue our consumer marketing efforts as we understand how crucial promotion is at this time.

In light of the significant media attention the province has been receiving, I think it’s important to remind everyone that we should be trying to reduce the fears of visiting our unaffected communities, prioritizing guest safety, by reporting and sharing only factual information from reputable sources.

I invite you all to tune in tomorrow morning at 7.35am to hear Maya Lange from DBC speak to News Talk 770 in Calgary. Ingrid Jarrett was also featured on CBC today which you can listen to here.

As an industry, let’s be mindful that our messaging is clear, factual, and let’s make no assumptions. This will allow a balanced perspective, one that will instill confidence in visitor’s expectations and experience. Your guests will always be the best voice, and word-of-mouth marketing could not be more imperative at this time.

Please continue to communicate with us, and keep sending your photos so we can amplify them through our own social media channels.

TOTA will continue conversations and stay apprised of the situation throughout the province. We can connect you with resources if you require. Let us know.  Let’s keep the lines open.

If you are able, I encourage you all to support your local Red Cross. A little goes a long way in times of need, and if we open our doors and our hearts, we will be stronger together.

Sincerely,

Glenn Mandziuk, President & CEO
Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

—————————————-

Update BC Wildfires: Tourism Industry Steps Forward – July 11, 2017

To all industry stakeholders and DMO’s,

I wanted to reach out to you all following yesterday’s email regarding the current wildfires and the Provincial State of Emergency. I really appreciate you taking the time to let us know how you’re doing and how we can help, and implore you to continue doing so in the days to come.

As of Tuesday morning, approximately 14,000 people have been evacuated from their homes throughout the province as more than 230 wildfires burn, covering 320 square kilometres. With weather conditions unfavourable, our thoughts are with the amazing firefighters on the frontline who are working so hard to contain these fires, and of course – with those affected.

Our thoughts are also with our friends over at Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism as Williams Lake has now been put on an evacuation alert.

In the 24 hours since my last email, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount of support that has emerged from within the industry. It reminds me how proud I am to be a member of this community and how everyone is a friend or neighbour in times of need.

I wanted to share a few announcements that may help you and your guests over the coming days, the first from our corporate partner, Air Canada.

Air Canada has taken immediate steps to assist with those travelling to and from affected areas. If you or your guests have a ticket with Air Canada for travel to/from/via affected areas, for travel between now and July 22, you may change your flight without paying a change fee.

If you or your guests do not have a ticket and are seeking to fly from Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Prince George, and Williams Lake as a result of the state of emergency, Air Canada is providing an additional 25% discount from these communities to help facilitate travel to any destination in North America. The promotion code to be used is A3VRZAR1.

The second announcement comes from Big White Resort, who will be opening their doors to all wildfire evacuees offering affordable accommodation for families seeking safe refuge. Pet-friendly units are available, and for evacuees with large animals or livestock, the resort has room to keep them with unlimited access to fresh water. For more information visit rentchalets.com or chaletsatbigwhite.com.

Thirdly, the Windsor Motel in Hope is opening their doors with any relief or help they can provide. They have an average of 7 rooms per night that they can provide. For further information, I refer you to the manager, Terry Brewer who can be reached at 604-869-9944.

Lastly, for now, Tricia at Time Flies Indoor Play in Penticton are welcoming any families displaced by the fires to play for free. If any tourists are concerned about the smoke, they have an air-conditioned, safe, and fun facility for children to play in.

We still encourage everyone to stay informed and use provincial updates and resources to ensure safety. Destination British Columbia has collected a list of Emergency Resources specifically for the BC Tourism Industry, and Prepared BC has a guide and emergency plan for tourism operators available to you as well.

We understand that the BC Wildfire Service Map has been overloaded with traffic, so Bob Stern at Mozey-On-Inn down in Coalmont was kind enough to forward us information regarding an alternative tool to best understand what is happening around us.

The NASA website allows you to download satellite files that can then be viewed in Google Earth to highlight activity from above.

As I mentioned in my email yesterday, while we are certainly addressing the severity of this situation, our consumer marketing efforts will continue to promote the region, as we understand how crucial business is to our industry and the impact natural disasters such as these can have.

Here are a few updates from throughout the community and hope that for those that are looking to provide guests with alternative arrangements, you keep these in mind.

  • Harrison Hot Springs is 30km away from the Harrison Lake forest fire, with winds blowing smoke away from the hot springs. Guests are safe to continue their visitation plans.
  • Castoro de Oro is safe in Oliver, BC and they’re not experiencing the smokiness seen in some parts of the valley. Picnics and wine are still very much encouraged.
  • Mabel Lake Resort is happy to announce that lake water has returned to normal levels with no boat bans or flooding incidents to report. The Mabel Lake Marina is available for anyone looking for “Flood Debris Free” moorage. Skies are relatively smoke-free and lots of happy campers are soaking up the rays and enjoying family time.
  • There are no fires near A Rover’s Rest Bed & Breakfast though smoke is present like in much of the region. The South Shuswap is more than happy to welcome guests who are displaced or need to change their travel plans.

To report a wildfire or irresponsible behaviour call 1-800-663-5555.

Evacuees can register with the Red Cross by going to www.redcross.ca/gethelp or by calling 1-800-863-6582.

I look forward to seeing the continued support within our industry and communities. Please keep sending updates, photos, and requests directly to Ellen at industry@totabc.com, and we will keep our thoughts with those affected at this time.

Sincerely,

Glenn Mandziuk, President & CEO
Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

—————————————-

TOTA Response to Wildfires and Provincial State of Emergency – July 10, 2017 

To all industry stakeholders and DMO’s,

As most of you are aware, the Province of British Columbia has declared a state of emergency as over 225 wildfires burn across the province.

With hot, dry conditions, and antagonizing winds, BC is bracing for an uphill climb to both contain the fires, and prepare for the impact and devastation that is rippling through the province.

There are currently over 1,000 firefighters doing an incredible job trying to constrain the flames, and other provinces are sending more to support them. Federal assistance is also on the way.

“There is a tremendous amount of effort being put in right now, a lot of women and men out there are doing everything they can to try and put containment around these fires and trying to keep people safe,” says Kevin Skrepnek, information officer for the BC Wildfire Service.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association would like to extend our support to the communities and industry in this time of need. Please let us know how you are doing, what you need, and how we can help. Whether you are affected by the fires and require communication on your behalf to help keep visitors safe, or whether you are unaffected and are happy to have guests sent your way, let us know so we can best help you, and your guests. We invite you to send any information you may have, photos, or updates directly to Ellen Walker-Matthews at industry@totabc.com.

While our consumer marketing efforts will continue to promote the region, as we know this is crucial to business in a season that has been off to a rocky start, it’s important to address the severity of this, and be ready to support our neighbours and communities should they need a hand.

In times like these, it is best to be as informed as possible, and we encourage everyone to put safety first. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, but for real-time information, these resources are readily available to you.

The BC Wildfire Service has set up an interactive map of all active wildfires across the province. They also release the latest wildfire information on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Emergency Info BC has a provincial Twitter account with up-to-date information about current wildfires and other emergencies in BC.

Drive BC provides information about road closures and delays, posting updates on Twitter and website.

Environment Canada is the resource for latest weather information, statements, and air quality advisories.

The provincial website has up-to-date information about fire bans and restrictions throughout the region.

Evacuees can register with the Red Cross by going to www.redcross.ca/gethelp or by calling 1-800-863-6582

To report a wildfire or irresponsible behaviour call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 from a cell phone.

Stay safe everyone.

Sincerely,

Glenn Mandziuk, President & CEO
Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

All News