Despite flooding, southern B.C. hot spots are open for business this long weekend

Tourism officials in British Columbia’s southern Interior are hoping that flooding and evacuations won’t discourage tourists from visiting over the Victoria Day long weekend.

'Business as usual' for restaurants, wineries, shops this Victoria Day long weekend, tourism officials say

While areas of Southern B.C. cope with flooding, tourist hot spots such as vineyards in the Okanagan remain open. ( Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press; Getty Images)

Tourism officials in British Columbia's southern Interior are hoping that flooding and evacuations won't discourage tourists from visiting over the Victoria Day long weekend.

While rivers such as the Similkameen, West Kettle, Kettle, Okanagan and Granby have been flooding, and evacuation orders have been issued, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association says there's still lots for tourists to do in the region.

"Our wineries are open. Our restaurants are open. Our shops are open," said Ellen Walker-Matthews, the association's vice-president. "We're going to have gorgeous weather, so that's perfect for getting outside."

Walker-Matthews says the only major restriction is on motor-boating, which is prohibited on Osoyoos Lake and discouraged on Okanagan Lake.

"Everything else is really wide open. Everything you would normally do when you come up for the weekend is available," she said. In fact, there are still major community events scheduled for this weekend: the Osoyoos Medieval Faire, the Falkland Stampede and the Paddle Trail Launch on Okanagan Lake.

'We're waiting with open arms'

Rising water levels in Osoyoos have forced some residents to evacuate, but Kelley Glazer, the executive director of Destination Osoyoos, says for the most part it's "business as usual."

She says the area's wineries, restaurants, and golf courses are open and ready for visitors. "We're waiting with open arms," said Glazer.

Glazer and Walker-Matthews both agree that the Victoria Day long weekend is vital for the tourism industry.

"It's incredibly important," said Walker-Matthews. "Especially for our smaller operators. They're really waiting for those tourists to come from B.C. and Alberta."

Glazer says local businesses have been preparing for the long weekend since April. "Summer is the time that we make our bread and butter."

Cancellations keep coming in 

Hotel operators say, in the last week to 10 days, they've had lots of cancellations, so they're launching campaigns to say that the flooding hasn't affected everyone.

"Interestingly enough it's predominantly a lack of information and fear that they're going into an area that sounds like it might not be safe," said Ingrid Jarrett, the vice president of business development of The Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos 

But mitigating any sort of message telling tourists that most destinations are open has been hard as safety is everyone's top priority.

According to Jarrett, people are a little geographically challenged when it comes to how far their weekend vacation destinations are from the affected areas, what areas are safe and what areas they shouldn't be accessing. 

"We're hoping that people will actually look at a map and look at where we are in comparison to these other areas that are so negatively affected," said Jarret.

Know before you go

Although tourism officials maintain that hot spots are open, it's important to be aware of your surroundings and make sure your travel plans are safe before taking off this weekend.

Destination British Columbia advises travellers to visit the Emergency Preparedness section of their website and Officials at Emergency Operations Centres are encouraging everyone to consult Drive BC but say they don't expect any problems for travellers this long weekend.

With files from CBC Daybreak South