As firefighters battled against wildfires on a number of fronts, British Columbia's premier Saturday, 19AUG imposed a travel ban to parts of the province. Premier David Eby said the emergency travel ban to affected areas was to free up accommodation for tens of thousands of evacuees and fire crews.
No new evacuation orders for residents in affected zones have been added, and fire officials Sunday, 20AUG said the battle against devastating fires may have "turned a corner" with no more homes destroyed in West Kelowna and no new evacuation orders for residents in affected zones.
Still, tens of thousands of homes across BC remain under evacuation orders and those regions are covered by the emergency travel ban.
According to the province, the emergency travel ban will be in place until 04SEP for hotels, motels, inns, B&B's - even RV parks and campgrounds in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton and Vernon, reports CTVNews.
The ban encompasses some of the most popular tourism areas of the province, meaning businesses shut down for weeks - just as those businesses struggle to recover from pandemic shutdowns.
“If you look at the entire 12 months of the year, August is typically the busiest month for visitors,” the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC told CTVNews.
Walt Judas said that local operators are "taking a big hit once again" to the long-term viability of their businesses in addition to fears about the impact of the wildfires to the communities themselves.
“Many businesses are still not fully up to speed and operational after COVID. Many are still carrying a lot of debt and and don't have a full complement of staff,” he added. Prior to the emergency travel bans, tourism revenue was expected to recover to 2019 levels, but the wildfires and travel bans put that recovery into question.
Even if the travel ban had not been enacted, the closure of the Kelowna International Airport since Friday, 18AUG, means there's only road access to the area, anyway.
In a statement Sunday, 20AUG, the CEO of Tourism Kelowna echoed her provincial counterpart in urging people to focus on the immediate wildfire response, and protecting residents and the community
Lisanne Ballantyne added, “When able, we will move forward to recovery planning,” she said. “We have faced challenging situations before, and while none are the same, we will work through this together, rebuild and also focus on long-term resiliency.”