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With B.C. burning, Shuswap has seen a mixed tourist season

The summer tourism season is crucial for many businesses in the Shuswap region.

But this year, the hot, dry and smoky season has given them mixed results.

The province’s record fire year has kept some visitors away. But other factors have actually helped to boost business.

This may be the province’s worst fire season on record in terms of hectares burned (1,021,982 as of Tuesday), but that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

“The fires are certainly there,” said Corryn Grayston, general manager of the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce.

“But there are lots of places in B.C. where people can be coming and enjoying their vacations not being concerned by threats from a forest fire.”

DeMille’s Farm Market in Salmon Arm was forced to cut shifts earlier in the season when customer traffic dropped off.

“People thought all of British Columbia was on fire,” employee Jacob Wituik said.

“The beginning of July was really slow once the state of emergency came through.”

Visitor traffic at Salmon Arm’s tourist information centre was down slightly earlier in the summer.

However, at the same time, forest fires in other areas of the province also led some to choose the Shuswap for their vacation.

“There was certainly some negative impact but it was offset somewhat by people remaining in the Shuswap, in the Salmon Arm region, just simply because their travels up north were not going to happen,” said Grayston.

Some are finding that business is actually better this year. The Shack Ice Cream Shoppe said it’s doing better this summer than last year because there has been less rain.

“I guess the smoke hasn’t affected us as much as say the weather would,” said Tara Andrus with The Shack Ice Cream Shoppe.

Business has rebounded at the farm market since July.

“It’s picked up quite a bit,” said Wituik.

“People realized it’s not as horrible as they think.”

– With files from CKNW

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