Travel ban in parts of B.C. disrupting tourism as raging wildfires burn
August 21, 2023 By The Canadian Press
KELOWNA, B.C. — The central Okanagan is facing weeks without tourism during its peak season after British Columbia’s premier imposed bans on travel to wildfire zones.
David Eby says the decision was made to ensure accommodation is available for crews and the 30,000 people who were forced from their homes across B.C.
The order, which was introduced Saturday under the provincial state of emergency, will be in place until Sept. 4 for hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, hostels, RV parks and campgrounds in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton and Vernon.
The province says the travel ban does not impact other regions, but is asking people to avoid non-essential travel to the central Interior and southeast to keep roads clear for emergency-response operations and other potential evacuations.
The Kelowna International Airport has also been cancelling flights since Friday to ensure aerial firefighting efforts go uninterrupted.
Nearby wildfires have forced the evacuation of thousands in the city, which has forced watercraft rental businesses to closed their doors, leaving boats and jet skis sitting idle, bobbing on the water.
Realtor Raymun Khunkhun, who has lived in Kelowna for about three decades, said the ban has left streets usually teeming with visitors eerily bare.
“There’s not a lot of people walking around or anything, it’s almost like a ghost town now out here,” he said in an interview Saturday.
“These streets are usually packed, like it’s hard single-file walking when you’re on the sidewalks, and now it’s almost a little scary in a sense that it’s just empty.”
But, he said there’s not much that can be done now other than “pray for better days.”
“Hopefully this doesn’t turn into anything worse than it already is.”