KELOWNA, B.C. — Heavy smoke sweeping in from Washington state wildfires is causing some tourists to blow off their Okanagan vacations, say business people around Kelowna, B.C.
"Business has slowed down quite a bit because of the air quality and the smoke has cooled down the lake quite a bit," said Rylie Gallagher, owner of Kelowna Wibit Water Park.
He said business has decreased by a third to a half in the last few days.
"This was expected to be one of our last strong weeks," he said.
"We're going to take a bit of a hit with the smoke."
Gallagher said he hopes Labour Day weekend will bring an influx of customers.
Nancy Cameron, Tourism Kelowna CEO, said local hotels have taken a hit as well.
"I have received some feedback from some businesses that have had some cancellations," said Cameron, adding she did not know the extent of the cancellations. "Generally, it's people who have a concern about the air quality."
The Delta Grand in Kelowna is one of the hotels that has seen the effects of the smoke on visitors, with occupancy down about 10 per cent.
"We have had a few people cancelling and a few shortening their stays a bit," said Daniel Gibby, general manager of the Delta.
Todd's RV and Camping in Peachland receives calls daily asking how long the smoke will last, but it has not resulted in cancellations, said manager Barb Fritsch.
"Some people coming from Alberta are saying it's not as bad here as it is there."
The concentration of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres, a standard measurement of air quality, was 50 micrograms per cubic metre at 1 p.m. Wednesday, compared to 40 micrograms per cubic metre at noon on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, the concentration was higher at 117 micrograms.
These numbers are down from peak readings of 391 micrograms per cubic metre on Sunday afternoon and above 200 micrograms per cubic metre on Monday.
"We expect the smoke conditions to continue until Friday," said Tarek Ayache, air quality meteorologist. "We are expecting a weather system to move in by the weekend to bring in precipitation," which he said should produce a "big relief in the smoky conditions." (Kelowna Daily Courier)
Andrea Peacock, Kelowna Daily Courier, Kelowna Courier