Hospitality operators in Osoyoos, B.C., propose trucking in mobile work camp for summer staff

49-bed work camp will be transported from Fort McMurray, Alta., if project goes ahead

A group of hospitality businesses in Osoyoos, B.C., wants to bring an oil field work camp to the South Okanagan to house seasonal hotel and motel workers.

The 49-bed camp is currently in Fort McMurray, Alta., and would be trucked to Osoyoos at a cost of approximately $100,000, said Watermark Beach Resort General Manager Ingrid Jarrett.

“They are single bedrooms. You know, a sink and a closet and a mirror and a TV and all the beds and everything and fully furnished,” she said.

“And then we’ll have a commissary kitchen with refrigerators and cupboards for people’s personal food.”

The Osoyoos resort is part of a group of tourism operators that have banded together to come up with a solution to the shrinking pool of rental accommodations for seasonal employees in the town’s hospitality sector.

Lack of rental housing

Jarrett blames the rise of Airbnb and similar vacation rental services, coupled with a boom in tourism in the South Okanagan town of approximately 5,000 residents.

“Historically, we have subleased or rented apartments or basements suites or bedrooms or houses and secured them on behalf of our team that we hire for our seasonal demand,” she said.

“Increasingly, with Airbnb and VRBO [vacation rental by owner] so many of those units are being rented by the night that they are no longer available for us.”

The camp would be placed on Osoyoos Indian Band land and run by a manager.

The hospitality group appeared earlier this week before Osoyoos town mayor and council. It asked the city to support the project by providing sewer and water hook-ups for the work camp buildings and amending a covenant it has with the Osoyoos Indian Band that restricts use of that parcel of land.

Mayor Sue McKortoff said she likes the idea as a solution to the housing issue, and that town staff are looking into the hospitality group’s proposal.

“We cannot say that we will do it because it is a business that is asking us to donate some money — in terms of the water and sewer outlets, they would like a break on that,” McKortoff said.

The hospitality group wants to have the work camp in place and operating by the end of next month.

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