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Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one
Okanagan Lake (File photo)

Recreational travel across the province was one of many activities to return under the second phase of the B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, which began June 15.

And as summer approaches, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) is ready to welcome guests back to the region.

“We’re pretty excited, I have to say. It’s been a long 15 months and we’ve had stops and starts along the way,” said Ellen Walker-Matthews, the senior VP and acting president and CEO of TOTA.

“But I think that we all feel like this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic and we’re moving towards a very positive summer, and hopefully that continues into the fall and winter.”

Calling it the “beginning of the end,” Walker-Matthews said she expects a busy summer across the board.

“The demand is all through the region — that’s all through the Thompson and the Okanagan,” she said.

The high volume of bookings, she said, tells her that people are eager and ready to escape the confines of their homes.

“We have research that shows that bookings absolutely dropped when the provincial health officer said to stay home, which was great,” she said. “It enabled us to get where we are today, that we can open up.”

But even as the world inches towards a state of normalcy, she said that a lot of work still needs to be done, particularly when supporting local businesses who she said are fighting to stay on their feet and find employees.

“A lot of our businesses are going to struggle and are going to find it difficult to continue. The last circuit breaker, while important, was really challenging,” she said.

Continuing to support local, she said, is “so important.”

“[Small businesses are] such an important contribution to what makes the region vibrant,” she said.

She encouraged others to explore the Thompson region, which she said is frequented more by international guests than domestic travellers.

“In normal summers, if you get out there, you’ll mostly hear other languages being spoken: Dutch, German and whatnot,” she said.

“Of course, Shuswap is very popular with everyone house boating, so we know that they’ll be busy. But I think we would certainly love to see people experience what we have in the north part of our region.”

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