Smoke compromising bottom line for businesses in Kamloops region

By Chad Klassen
August 10, 2017 - 6:08pm

KAMLOOPS — If the heavy smoke we've been breathing in for almost two weeks straight isn't bad enough, many businesses in town are also feeling choked out by these compromised conditions.

Tourism in the Kamloops region is taking a heavy hit this summer, and the way things are going, there may be no time for a rebound before the season is over.

"Normally at this time of year, we wouldn't have three pedal boats sitting on the deck, four Sea-Doos sitting here resting, not being used. All the boats are sitting here unused and it's a rarity," noted Bruker Marina co-owner Kerry Wiebe.   

Bruker Marina along Kamloops Lake is down 90 per cent, at a time of year is when the marina cashes in on vacationers renting boats, Sea-Doos, and taking part in other water sports. But that is simply not happening. 

"The loss of revenue, we're probably down one-eighth of the business that we should've done, not even," said Wiebe. "I bet you it's about 1/15 of the business we should've done at this time of year."

Meantime, at Heffley Lake, the smoke is present but not nearly as bad as in the valley. Bodie Shandro with Paddle Surfit had paddleboarders out on the lake on Thursday --- all part of a tourism kamloops shoot helping promote businesses like his during these tough times.

"Smoke at lower elevations, people are in Kamloops or driving through Kamloops and they see 'oh my God, you can hardly see across the highway.' So they're reluctant to take part in outdoor activities," said Shandro. "But you come up a little elevation at Heffley Lake, Sun Peaks, it's actually much clearer."

While his Heffley Lake operation is still up and running, despite fewer number, other locations have been forced to shut down. 

"Our provincial parks at Nicola Lake, Paul Lake. Paul Lake is pretty much shut down," said Shandro, who rents paddleboarding at three other locations than Heffley Lake. "In Chase, it's been very slow unfortunately." 

Tourism Kamloops says businesses around the region are hurting from the smoke. But through promotional shoots like the one on Thursday, it's trying to encourage people to still come visit. 

"Our businesses are being impacted to some degree, but everyone is very much open for business still," said communication specialist Lisa White from Tourism Kamloops. "There's still so many amazing things in Kamloops for guests and visitors and locals to come and experience. Great opportunities for reprieve like Heffley Lake, where the smoke is just a little bit better."

Downtown Kamloops shops aren't immune either. Some noticing the lack of foot traffic on these smoky days. Others haven't been impacted at all. 

At Bruker Marina, they're just hoping the smoke clears soon, so they can at least end the summer on a strong note. 

Labour peace at Highland Valley Copper