British Columbia

Tourism in this B.C. town is booming despite pandemic

Tourists continue to flock to hotels and beaches in Osoyoos; the city’s hotels are at 95 per cent capacity, according to mayor Sue McKortoff, and the town looks like it would during any other year.

Hotels at 95 per cent capacity in Osoyoos, B.C.

The Okanagan city of Osoyoos looks no different than any other year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as tourists continue to visit the area. (Submitted by Sue McKortoff)

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Okanagan can't — and won't — keep travellers away from one of B.C.'s most popular summer vacation spots. 

Tourists continue to flock to hotels and beaches in Osoyoos, which is only about four kilometres from the Canada-U.S. border. In fact, the city's hotels are at 95 per cent capacity, according to Mayor Sue McKortoff, and the town looks like it would any other summer.

"We have tons of people in town," McKortoff told Radio West producer Josh Pagé

"Our businesses are certainly getting some business."

Businesses in Osoyoos, B.C. are thriving as tourists flock to the city. (Submitted by Sue McKortoff)

Earlier this week, the Canadian government extended the U.S. border closure until August. Americans often visit the B.C. border town for a lakeside vacation, but with the recent boom in local tourism, McKortoff isn't worried about businesses surviving. In fact, she said she was "quite happy" to find out the border would remain closed. 

"We have maintained a much better ability to look after problems in this province and we think that it's probably not safe for us to be crossing down to Washington. We're not ready to have them back here yet."

A recent cluster of COVID-19 cases reported in Kelowna, which impacted people from outside the community, hit close to home for people in Osoyoos, which is about 120 kilometres away.

"It was a bit of a wake-up call," McKortoff said. "This can happen here."

Even though the heavier traffic in Osoyoos is good for business, McKortoff said she is a "little bit nervous."

"It is a little bit nerve-racking because we see how easily it happened in Kelowna and other places," she said. 

"I just don't want it to happen here."

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said Thursday there are things communities and tourists can do to keep each other safe — and allow travel to continue — such as maintaining physical distance, wearing a non-medical mask and keeping gatherings small. 

McKortoff expects tourism to continue through the fall and possibly even the winter as Canadian snowbirds may choose Osoyoos as an alternative to their usual destinations south of the border. 

"We normally have a lot of snowbird traffic anyway," she said, adding they're primarily from other western provinces. 

"We have a feeling that's not going to be less than we've had, we could expect a lot more."

With files from Radio West

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