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Sunny skies over blue lakes: B.C.’s Interior welcomes record number of tourists

A tourist boom is taking place in B.C.’s interior — with jam-packed beaches and campgrounds, line-ups at wineries, and extra traffic on the roads.

Tourism boards in Kamloops, the Shuswap, Nelson, Revelstoke and Golden are all noticing increased traffic.

Using preliminary statistics, some are reporting that visitors to the region increased by 10 to 15 per cent from last year.

Ingrid Jarrett, a past president and current board member of the B.C. Hotel Association and a resort operator in Osoyoos, told Chris Walker on Daybreak South that hotels have noticed the boom.

“In the Okanagan, [we’re seeing trends] indicative of the largest year-to-year growth that we’ve seen in quite some time,” she said.

Jarrett thinks one reason for the boom is a coordinated marketing scheme.

Hotel association board member Ingrid Jarrett says the wine, culinary and golf sectors in the Okanagan are working together to market to tourists. (Roshini Nair/CBC)

“We’re seeing year over year, a very coordinated approach to marketing in British Columbia which is serving it very well. I also think that sectors like wine, culinary and golf are working together to market to Western Canada, as well as Europe. “

Sources of visitors

As for where visitors are coming, Jarrett says there are three key sources: B.C., the U.S., and Alberta.

She says British Columbians are staying and travelling at home or visiting family in the interior; the Americans are coming because of the great exchange rate; and Albertans — who have traditionally been a strong market — have continued to visit despite a weaker economy.

And Jarrett says those visitors are coming by car, RV and camper.

“The roads are definitely more busy!”

One solution is to build the roads out more so they can handle the capacity, she says, but vacationers need to relax.

“We need to be patient, and remember that we’re on vacation.”

Sustainable growth

Jarrett hopes the region can sustain these numbers, noting that the Okanagan, for instance, was on track for a banner year last year until the August fires.

“Our biggest opportunity is to make sure that everybody has a fantastic time when they’re here. We really identify what people want to do when they’re here, so we’re continue to build the products that people want.”

She says the region is working on developing more recreation opportunities like cycling, golf, kayaking, and wellness.

The final tourism statistics will be released in the fall.

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