B.C. tourism industry hopes to attract Albertans

Many local tourism-based businesses in Osoyoos are turning their focus to targeting “rubber-tire” traffic due to the new travel restrictions put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the results are shifting daily.

With restrictions placed on international travel, the tourism industry hopes to rebound by marketing Osoyoos as a safe destination to visit for people in the Lower Mainland and Alberta, according to Destination Osoyoos executive director Kelley Glazer.

“There are varying reports of impact,” said Glazer, noting that the more populated areas are seeing more impact from the virus so far. “Those of us who work on the marketing side of Destination Osoyoos are working on developing recovery campaigns that are entirely focused on the domestic market and are rubber tire specific.”

Rubber-tire tourism describes tourists who travel by car to get to their destination as opposed to flying, which Glazer said is much of where Osoyoos tourism already comes from. About 70 per cent of tourism has always come from the Vancouver area, Glazer said, but she also believes that competition for the Greater Vancouver market will be much steeper this year, as other British Columbia destinations will also be targeting the province’s most populated city.

“The markets that Osoyoos enjoys anyways are domestic markets,” said Glazer. “We don’t have a significant international market base here. So our challenge will be everyone else will be targeting the same people that we have always gone after so we will have to be a lot more nimble and a lot more creative in how we ensure we hang on to our piece of the market share.”

This is a marked change from Monday, when Osoyoos Times reached out to Destination Osoyoos and a few other tourism-based businesses in the area, who were all positive and seeing a good influx of reservations for the summer.

Daniel Bibby, executive director of Spirit Ridge Resort, said on Monday that their reservations were actually looking good for this time last year.

“What’s interesting to see is we are seeing an increase in some reservations for people who just want to stay closer to home,” said Bibby. “So they may have had an international trip planned at some point where they were flying to international destinations and now they feel more comfortable staying in the Okanagan.”

Both Bibby and Glazer said they are trying their best to stay on top of the changing landscape of the pandemic, and that although they felt positive on Monday, information is coming in fast and their approaches could change at any time.

“There might have been a bit more confidence out there (on Monday) than there maybe today with the closure of the U.S. – Canada border and the recent announcement of the state of emergency,” said Glazer. “So it’s a daily, changing thing. You call me tomorrow, I’ll probably have something new to tell you tomorrow.”

At this time, Destination Osoyoos aims to ramp up targeting of the Lower Mainland market, while also looking towards the Alberta market for additional numbers when they launch into “recovery campaigns” once the pandemic dies down. For now, all any of the local tourism businesses can do is hold out hope that fellow Canadians will still want to enjoy what Osoyoos and the rest of the South Okanagan have to offer.

Story by Sophie Gray, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Osoyoos Times

Christina Cherneskey photo of Osoyoos, B.C.

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