The local tourism industry is bracing for more pain.
Last week, the federal government announced Canada’s major airlines will suspend service to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico starting Sunday until April 30.
In addition all international passenger flights must land at only four airports in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.
“We’re dead in the water….that’s it.” said Denise Cesselli a luxury travel specialist with Travel Best Bets in Kelowna.
Cesselli has seen her revenue come to a screeching halt. She said she hasn’t earned a dime from trips she packaged for clients nearly three years ago, for travel in May of 2020.
“Because if you don’t travel, I don’t get paid. So basically I have been working for free, if you will. So it’s been almost zero income for me. And that’s why a lot of people have lost their jobs,” she added.
The job loss is also being felt where the entire trickle down starts: Kelowna International Airport, where travel restrictions last year saw staff at YLW cut by 40 per cent.
“It’s has a devastating impact already, but this is going to be even more severe.” YLW Airport Director Sam Samaddar told Global news.
Kelowna’s airport saw 737,000 passengers in 2020, well below the two million in 2019. The hope, Samaddar said, was to at least match 2020 passenger numbers this year.
“But with these restrictions, we are forecasting that we will downgrade even further. We’ll probably do around 550-thousand passengers – that takes us back to 1994/95 numbers,” he said.
While many travel agents like Cesselli fully support federal restrictions until it’s safe to travel again, she knows those numbers mean even more turbulence ahead, for local tourism.
“The accounting, the management. These people are not getting paid either, because I can’t work and I can’t contribute to local business.”
Samaddar thinks perhaps this latest batch of restrictions could be the final nail in the coffin for many local business owners in the Okanagan.
“How much debt do you continue to take out to try and survive and keep your business alive? I think a lot of businesses will look at that and say – is it worth me staying in the market?”
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