KELOWNA – In the Okanagan, summer means plenty of sunshine, but that’s not what was forecasted for the unofficial start to the hottest season of the year.
Despite that, the May long weekend kept its reputation as one of the busiest tourism weekends of the year.
“From all accounts, our stakeholders in the many attractions and accommodations in Kelowna are saying it’s a fantastic May long weekend… they’re very pleased with the activity,” said director of marketing and communications with Tourism Kelowna, Chris Shauf.
In fact, not only was it another lively Victoria Day long weekend, it was exceptionally busy for many local businesses.
“We were almost 100 per cent [capacity] so it was fantastic… We had to open our patio a few times over the long weekend as the rain came and went… It felt a little bit like summer despite the clouds,” said general manager of Manteo Resort, Heather Schroeter.
The long weekend was even a record-breaker at some tourist hot spots, like Cedar Creek Estate Winery.
The winery’s marketing manager believes this was the busiest May long weekend the business has had in the last four years. Anahita Pouget said the winery saw 20 per cent more visitors this year than last year.
General manager of the Delta Grand, Daniel Bibby, was surprised with how busy the hotel was over the long weekend, despite the forecast of clouds and chance of rain.
“This was one of the best long weekends we’ve had in a long time, so I think guests were ready to travel, it was sort of that feeling of, ‘What rain? Let’s get out and enjoy Kelowna and the valley,’” said Bibby.
The rain also didn’t put a damper on camping plans for many tourists and locals. Many of those at Bear Creek Park in West Kelowna had a hard time booking their campsites because of the demand.
“We found out that there was a site cancelling, so we were just online go, go, go and we finally got it,” camper Doug Adams told Global News on Saturday.
With the start of the official summer season just around the corner, campsites, hotels, resorts and many other local attractions are already starting to pre-book.
“We saw a lot of people coming in and checking with our visitor team for opportunities and options about what else they could experience in the area,” said Shauf.
The tourism boost seen in the Okanagan isn’t isolated; there’s promising numbers throughout B.C. The province says the number of international visitors in the first quarter of 2016, is 16.8 per cent higher compared to the same period last year.