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Okanagan fires put a damper on local tourism

The fires burning around the southern Okanagan have made national news over the last week.

The result has been that local businesses that rely on tourism, even those far from evacuation zones, are taking a hit as some change their travel plans because of the fire news.

Todd’s RV and Camping on Okanagan Lake in Peachland would normally be full this time of year but instead they have vacancies.

“People were phoning like crazy. Staff had to spend an extra eight, nine hours everyday, between the emails and phone calls, [explaining] that it is not quite as drastic as it seems,” campground owner Graham Todd said.

“Right here in our location we had one day of smokey conditions. Other than that it was pretty good.”

Todd estimates their bookings have been down about 15 per cent and he said the staff have had to talk a lot of campers into going through with their plans to visit the Okanagan.

Jonathan Reyes, who is visiting Peachland from Calgary, was one of those campers who originally considered changing his plans because of the fire.

“It’s actually been nice. We’ve got a nice breeze and there is no smoke coming from the other side [of the lake].” Reyes said.

The president of the Peachland Chamber of Commerce said those planning a visit should look past the headlines before they change their plans.

“I think if they do a little bit of research and check with people other than the news media or the wildfire service, which of course is going to focus on the fires. I think if they check with other sources they will find that an awful lot of people are here and it is business as usual and holiday as usual,” said Chamber president Rocky Rocksborough-Smith.

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