BC Wildfires 2017
- Economic Impact Surveys
- Key Messaging from BC’s Tourism Industry
- Destination BC Update
- Region and Industry Updates
BC Wildfire – Economic Impact Surveys
Local destination marketing organizations are seeking information on the economic impact of the current wildfire situation on tourism businesses.
Your input provides the provincial government with a comprehensive overview of the effects on businesses in both directly affected and unaffected areas. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey below:
- If you work or operate a business in the Vancouver, Coast and Mountains region, please take this survey.
- If you work or operate a business in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region, please take this survey.
- If you work or operate a business in the Thompson Okanagan region, please click here for your survey.
- If you work or operate a business in the Northern BC region, please find your survey here.
- If you work or operate a business in the Kootenay Rockies region, please take this survey.
- If you work or operate a business in the Vancouver Island region, please take your survey here.
Please share the survey with your colleagues and encourage them to complete it as well in order for us to gain the most insight. Thank you for your participation.
Key Messaging from BC’s Tourism Industry
- While wildfires are burning in several locations in BC, much of the province is still accessible and open for business. Regions such as Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver/Fraser Valley, Kootenay Rockies, Coastal BC, most of the Okanagan and Northern BC are all relatively unaffected.
- The worst of the fire situation is confined to part of one region (Cariboo Chilcotin), with some air quality impacts in parts of the Okanagan.
- We’re asking visitors to think and act safety first; obey officials; be mindful of impacted areas; respect first-responders.
- Aside from residents, our concern as a tourism industry is for stranded or displaced guests who are trying to leave or arrive at a destination, but may be impacted by the wildfires.
- Kudos to all the operators, business owners and their employees that service the tourism industry. From hotels, restaurants, transportation providers, venue operators and others…everyone is pitching in to not only help displaced residents, but to look after visitors who find themselves in distress due to these unexpected and unfortunate circumstances.
- Prospective guests are asked to contact or connect with Drive BC; BC Parks; Emergency Info BC; Destination BC; individual community visitor centres; government of BC website; Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association to determine where to go or where not to go in British Columbia.
- Visit the BC Parks website for updates on parks that are open or closed due to wildfire activity: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks
- Visit the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) Facebook page and Twitter (@tnrd) for regular updates. Visit www.tnrd.ca and their online interactive Evacuation Status map for the most up to changes in orders and alerts in this area.
- For those returning home, the Government of British Columbia has collected resources to assist with the transition and those are available here. It is important to note that most of these orders have been downgraded to alerts, and thus, residents should be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
Destination BC Update
Destination BC has published the following list of Emergency Resources for BC’s Tourism Industry:
Stay safe, stay informed
During times of stress and uncertainty, it is important to share information from official sources only. There are a variety of resources available to help you prepare for emergencies, gather up-to-date information and help visitors plan their travel.
Step-by-step guides to prepare businesses and their staff for emergencies, with templates and tools to help operators easily plan a fast and effective response.
- Interactive map of all active wildfires across the province
- Twitter: @BCGovFireInfo
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/BCForestFireInfo/
- Campfire bans, restrictions and forest use
Recreation Sites and Trails
Alerts, closures and warnings regarding BC’s rustic campsites and recreational trails.
Resource for the latest weather information, statements, and air quality advisories.
Emergency Social Services
Information regarding emergency reception centres and assistance.
What business owners can do:
- Share these resources with your staff and follow key social media accounts for the latest news.
- Help your guests:
- If your business is located in an impacted area, provide your current customers and future reservations with regular updates by directing them to official information sources.
- If your business is not impacted directly, help your current guests plan the rest of their trip to areas that are safe and open for business (your local visitor centre has a wealth of information on places to stay and things to do).
- If your business is not impacted directly, be proactive with future reservations—let your customers know it’s business as usual and you are looking forward to hosting them. British Columbia is a very large province and sometimes our out-of-province guests can get confused by geographically misleading information.
- Have a plan—use the PreparedBC: Tourism Resources to prepare for emergencies and to identify potential hazards.
What Destination BC will do:
Destination BC’s consumer marketing efforts will continue to promote the entire province, adapting to the needs of each region/community, by placing focus on areas that are not currently impacted by emergencies, and supporting impacted areas once the emergency is over and recovery has begun.
Destination BC has also prepared messaging for our consumer website (HelloBC.com), and will push out emergency information resources to travellers through our consumer social media channels. Find our consumer messaging here.
Region and Industry Updates
Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association Update
August 11: Backcountry closed in the Cariboo: news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017FLNR0224-001428. Effective 2:00 pm Aug 23, 2017 (PST), the Cariboo Fire Centre BACKCOUNTRY CLOSURE IS RESCINDED due to decreased wildfire risk. Backcountry restrictions in the Cariboo are now limited to areas near active wildfires.
Fishing, riding and rafting ready for guests British Columbians invited to explore the Cariboo.
Download information on tourism opportunities available in the Cariboo Chilcotin region: Tourism opportunities for late bookers
Transportation partners offering evacuee assistance in BC fires
Flight, ferry and mobile phone offers for evacuees
Transportation providers have stepped up to help evacuees, both with allowing changes on reservations and providing travel discounts. We have put together a list of current offers, but please note that while some offers have an end date, they may be extended. Follow each offer’s specific link to check the current dates and parameters. With airlines, it is important to enter any Coupon or Promo Code at the beginning of your online flight search, to see the special rates.
Williams Lake Airport is currently closed to commercial airlines, and anyone holding a ticket is encouraged to contact their airline. Also, note that some of the language in the airline offers do not yet reflect this closure.
Westjet is offering 50% off base fares between Prince George and anywhere in Canada or the U.S., and 25% off base fares between Kelowna, Penticton or Kamloops, and anywhere in Canada or the U.S. Walk-up booking are included as well. Book by: July 19, 2017 (9:59 p.m. MT) and travel from: July 9-31, 2017.
Details at: www.westjet.com/en-ca/lowfaresandmore/discount-codes/1?p=1&discount=WBYFWWN&sm_cid=social:discount-code:yxs50:twitter
Westjet coupon code: WBYFWWN Promo code: WNQ34 (not required on westjet.com)
Also, WestJet will waive change and cancellation fees for existing bookings made on or before July 9, 2017 for travel until July 31, 2017. Waiving of change and cancellation fees applies to all fare classes to/from Prince George, Kelowna, Penticton or Kamloops to anywhere in Canada and the U.S.
Air Canada is offering a 25 percent discount on flights between now and July 22 from Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Prince George, and Williams Lake to any destination in North America. www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home/book/travel-news-and-updates.html#/caus-20170709
Air Canada promotion code: A3VRZAR1 or call Air Canada Reservations at 1-888-247-2262
In addition, Air Canada will allow free changes to be made for passengers flying to, from, or via the affected areas between now and July 22.
Central Mountain Air is providing a 30% discount to travel from Williams Lake or Quesnel to Vancouver, or from Prince George to Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary as a result of the state of emergency. Book by July 18, 2017 at 23:59 PST for travel until July 29, 2017. Full details at https://flycma.com/forest-fires-affecting-british-columbia/
Central Mountain Air promo code: BC17
Central Mountain Air will waive change fees or fare differences for travel to/from Williams Lake (YWL) between now and July 29.
Pacific Coastal Airlines is offering a discount of 30% for evacuees until July 18 (date may be extended). For the up-to-date offer, see: www.pacificcoastal.com/special-discount-2017/
For those affected by the fires, Pacific Coastal is waiving change and cancellation fees, as well as fare differences, for travel until July 29.
BC Ferries is assisting residents evacuating from wildfires complimentary (free) prearranged travel support. Evacuees from officially evacuated areas only are asked to contact them by phone at 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779). Free travel cannot be granted at the terminal ticket booths – it must be arranged in advance. www.bcferries.com/about/bc-wildfire-support.html?utm_campaign=wildfires&utm_medium=web&utm_source=bcfhome
You Might Also Want to Know
Mobile phone carriers Telus, Rogers, Koodo, Chatr and Fido will waive domestic voice, text and data overages until July 21. Most will be in the form of a future bill credit. Bell customers are asked to contact 310-Bell to find out what Bell will do to assist. Some extensions have been requested.
Despite this challenging time for our Cariboo Chilcotin residents and communities, the regional and provincial tourism industry continues to shine with a proactive engagement in the ultimate of hospitality – helping people when they need it most. “The overwhelming support throughout the region shows that tourism is not only a key industry but a family. I’m so proud and thankful and want to extend my appreciation to each and every one that is looking after friends, neighbors, colleagues and the countless helpers,” Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association board chair, Andre Kuerbis said. “I also want to give big kudos to our incredible staff that is working tireless from across the region.”
Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association is an industry-led not-for-profit Destination Management Organization that works collaboratively with stakeholders to develop and promote a responsible tourism industry in the Cariboo, Chilcotin and Central Coast of British Columbia. For more information about the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast tourism region, please visit: www.landwithoutlimits.com
July 21st update: While wildfires continue to threaten several parts of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism region, others, such as the Village of Cache Creek, saw residents return to their homes and businesses this week. The Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy1) is now open to regular traffic and the tourism businesses of Cache Creek and Ashcroft welcome you to show your support by booking a visit. In addition, authorities have opened Highway 97N from Cache Creek to Highway 24 and Highway 99 to Lillooet.
Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association continues to work to assist those communities and businesses impacted by the wildfires, and those who remain open for business and are welcoming guests. If you have a reservation, don’t be hesitant; call your resort to find out if they are operating and ‘Know before you go’.
“Our office has heard from resorts at Quesnel Lake, in our world-renowned interior rainforest, that they are having a very ‘usual’ summer with exceptional wildlife viewing – but very few guests,” said Amy Thacker, CEO for Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association. “Ranches and fishing resorts along the “Fishing Highway 24” and the Interlakes area have also reported few visitors but great days on the lakes and trails.”
We realise that some travelers planned to visit areas in the impacted zones, and we understand the disappointment. We invite them back to visit those areas this fall or next year, because many are truly bucket-list destinations. The tourism businesses will continue to need support, and to see future bookings coming in would be a great start.
While much of our team is evacuated and our office remains closed, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association continues to work with tourism businesses throughout our region to address any needs that arise.
As we begin planning for the future, we are working with government and partners to determine the extent of the tourism business impact due to wildfire. Our latest estimates indicate that approximately 436 tourism businesses are under an evacuation order or alert within our tourism region.
While we do not have an estimate in terms of business loss or revenue loss, we have begun to ask our businesses and communities to share that information, and are preparing for return to home for more of our communities and businesses.
Update from Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism – August 3, 2017:
Fires affecting some but not all tourism businesses.
On behalf of the tourism industry in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast and our board of directors, we thank the fire crews, staff, volunteers and people who have come together to support the safety of our people, businesses and communities.
We are extremely proud of our staff and the tourism business owners in our region – they are resourceful, innovative and resilient. During these challenging times they continue to rise above and beyond, providing outstanding levels of service, to visitors and crews.
Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association is working to assist those communities and businesses impacted by the wildfires, as well as those who remain open for business and are welcoming guests. If you have a reservation, don’t be hesitant; call your resort and ‘Know Before You Go’.
We realise that some travelers had planned to visit areas in the impacted zones, and we understand you are disappointed. We invite you back to visit this fall or next year, because these are truly bucket-list destinations. Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism businesses need your support, and to see future bookings coming in will offer great hope to those families facing a poor 2017 summer season.
If you have witnessed a tourism business or owner going above and beyond please let us know as we continue to share the amazing strength, kindness and humanity being shown by the people of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast.
As we head into the long weekend, the tourism industry and your neighbors are asking for your help. Many parts of British Columbia remain in a state of high fire risk – we need everyone to remain vigilant. Enjoy your long weekend responsibly – do not hinder the efforts of our wildfire teams or emergency personnel, comply with any orders and let’s have no new human-caused fires!
A reminder from Recreation Sites & Trails BC: “In an effort to protect public safety, the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations has closed ALL Recreation Sites and Trails in the Cariboo Fire Center. This closure will remain in effect until further notice. Recreationalists are encouraged to avoid travelling in the backcountry in areas of active wildfires or where the fire danger rating is high to extreme. Given the current fire danger ratings and number of active wildfires, further restrictions may be considered if people do not stay out of the backcountry.”
For more information on the current closures of recreation sites and trails visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/sports-culture/recreation/camping-hiking/sites-trails
In closing please share the ‘Know Before You Go’ message – check with official emergency sources to obtain the accurate information and contact our tourism professionals directly. Help keep us all safe this August long weekend.
Amy Thacker, CEO
Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association
Andre Kuerbis, Board Chair
Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association
Other Industry Updates
- Local governments and First Nations can access funding for wildfire prevention activities through the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative, a suite of funding programs administered by UBCM and managed through the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Working Group. The next application intake deadline is October 6, 2017.
- Effective at noon (Pacific time) on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, the operation of any off-road vehicle for recreational purposes on Crown land will be prohibited throughout the Cariboo Fire Centre, Kamloops Fire Centre and Southeast Fire Centre. In addition, all on-highway vehicles must remain on defined road surfaces. https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017FLNR0208-001391
- July 27: Wells Gray Provincial Park has been re-opened and the Evacuation Order has been lifted for Williams Lake (still under an Evacuation Alert).
- Visit Penticton posted an update on Facebook (all clear and open for business!) www.facebook.com/visitpenticton/videos/1913679642218319. A recent “We’re Still Happening” campaign is having success: http://news.totabc.org/2017/08/03/travel-penticton-were-still-happening-campaign-is-a-resounding-success/
- Tourism Kamloops has 3 webcams that can easily be accessed on their website. These webcams have been an extremely useful tool in letting people know the current weather and air quality situations in Kamloops. Please share this link with anyone that may be considering a visit to Kamloops. They have been so very lucky to have had days of great summer weather and blue skies throughout the past couple of weeks. Kamloops Chamber of Commerce has information for evacuees on their website.
- Rocky Mountaineer has issued an Operational Update explaining that due to the wildfires in the Cariboo area, the railway near Quesnel has been closed, which affects trains on the Rainforest to Gold Rush route that travel between Vancouver and Jasper via Quesnel: www.rockymountaineer.com/alert
- The Ministry of Transportation has issued a notice regarding the closure of Highways 5 and 16 between Kamloops and the Albert border to Extraordinary Load Traffic (those oversize or overweight loads that require special approval before a permit may be issued). View the notice here. Visit Drive BC for further updates.
- The Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) will open a resiliency centre starting Thursday, July 13 at 12noon. Starting on Friday, July 14, the centre will be open seven days a week, from 10:00am to 4:00pm. The resiliency centre will provide resources for evacuees, including insurance advice from the Insurance Bureau of Canada and insurers. The centre will also house a variety of non-governmental agencies (NGOs) that will be able to provide services for evacuees. Service Canada will also be located at the centre. View the notice here.
- BC Ferries is providing complimentary prearranged travel support for people evacuating the wildfires in the BC interior. Read the press release here for more details.
- Tourism Vancouver sent a message to all their members updating them on the wildfire situation: “As you may know, some areas of British Columbia’s interior are currently dealing with wildfires. Some fires are impacting visitors and businesses. And media coverage of the BC fires is potentially influencing people planning trips to our city and province.
Tourism Vancouver is working in step with Destination BC to ensure visitors understand that British Columbia is a very large and diverse province, and that there are many areas – such as Vancouver – that are not impacted by fires, and are open for business.
With that said, we do suggest that visitors stay informed about the forest fire situation. Areas impacted continue to change. Visitors are advised to contact their tour operator or community visitor information centre directly to get the key facts about the area in BC they are visiting.If you receive questions about BC’s wildfire situation from clients or visitors planning travel to BC, we encourage you to refer them to these official sources of information.
- Destination BC’s Know Before You Go – Wildfires page.
- Tourism Vancouver’s Plan Your Trip page.
- The BC Wildfire Service website, which provides an interactive map of all active wildfires across the province.
Tourism Vancouver Members may also choose to familiarize themselves with the resources provided by PreparedBC which include a step-by-step guide to prepare businesses and their staff for emergencies. Destination BC also has a webpage devoted to Emergency Resources for BC’s Tourism Industry.
- The British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA) have activated a Business Recovery Hotline for impacted businesses. Managers or owners will be able to answer questions that will help distinguish short and long-term needs as the province evaluates an economic disaster recovery strategy. The number for the hotline is 1-877-422-3377.
- Economic recovery will be a critical area of focus and the British Columbia Economic Development Association (BCEDA) have initiated their Economic Disaster Recover Program (EDRP) to assist affected communities. The creation of a business hotline is underway. They are currently calling for volunteers for Economic Recovery Teams and those that are interested should indicate their interest here. Impacted businesses and communities to download the EDRP Manual for important tips on dealing with the current situation.
- TIABC has created a wildfire public service announcement that tourism operators and stakeholders are encouraged to post at their places of business: www.tiabc.ca/advocacy-policy-development/bctourismmatters/wildfire-psa
Fircrest RV Resort assists before, during, after evacuation – July 26, 2017
When 108 Mile Ranch and 105 Mile House were first evacuated, Fircrest RV Resort, on nearby Lac La Hache, offered people with trailers or RVs a free place to stay close to home, but out of harm’s way. Fircrest was in an evacuation Alert area, but managers Adam and Nancy Ragan were ready to go if an Order came through.During the first days of the fire, “People had nowhere to go. We were here, and we felt safe, so told them to stick around for the meantime.” says Adam Ragan. “We kept each other company and sat back and waited.”The resort posted fire news and positive updates to their Facebook page, while waiting the fires out, and welcomed back returning area evacuees with an offer.The Ragans have offered returning evacuees a home-away-from-home if they time to clean up their homes, or have no home left to return to. While Fircrest isn’t supplying RVs or trailers, Ragans want to offer their neighbors a place to park theirs – for free, while they get their homes and lives back to normal.“It might be a mess”, he adds. “If homes are damaged or need cleaning, we want to give people a place to come while they sort things out.”
“As our businesses and communities begin to return home it is great to see the spirit of helping one another continue throughout our tourism industry,” said, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association CEO, Amy Thacker. “We are pleased to be able to share that highways are opening. Heritage sites are opening and our businesses are able to continue to offer the amazing hospitality and experiences the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast is known for.”
Cache Creek’s “Wonder Women” feed & fuel firefighters – July 27, 2017
A group of Cache Creek women began feeding the Cache Creek Fire Department when the Elephant Hill fire broke out. Soon, though, the group of five women – dubbed the Wonder Women – were feeding ambulance and RCMP personnel, BC Wildfire staff and visiting fire departments, which were arriving in droves.
Initially, Cache Creek Husky and the local Tim Horton’s donated the food out of their restaurants, allowing the women to concentrate on feeding hungry crews. The Ashcroft Legion also helped fill the void until the Village of Cache Creek’s Chief Administrative Officer, Keir Gervais, found funding and brought in groceries from Kamloops.
Sue Peters is one of the five Wonder Women.
“I wasn’t alone in it,” says Peters. She credits the other four women for keeping the kitchen running after the first few days – Christine Elliot, Shelby Doerksen, Donna Brezina and the master of the kitchen, Geninne Fitzgerald. Peters, who is also owner of Cache Creek Husky, found she was needed to fuel up firefighting equipment, and was taking emergency calls 24 hours a day to get the vehicles filled and back to work.
“We met so many amazing men and women, from those fire departments”, said Peters. “They couldn’t believe that we could cook for so many people, and said it would never happen in the city.”
Now that Cache Creek residents have returned to the area, and Peters and staff have thoroughly cleaned everything in the business, she hopes that things will start to get back to normal. Highway 97 has just opened up to traffic, and summer is their busy season. “We are a strong little community, and we’re stronger than ever.” she says. “Come and visit – we need you more than ever.”
“Good news has continued this week with more businesses and communities returning home in the Williams Lake area and Highway 97 opening to traffic,” said, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association CEO, Amy Thacker. “I echo Sue and encourage visitors to come support our communities by visiting in person – they want to welcome you!” Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism operators remind all travellers that conditions continue to be hot and dry, requesting visitors remain diligent through the remainder of the summer season.
Submitted by: Amy Thacker, CEO, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association