The opportunity to divert to the South Okanagan visitors initially headed to fire-ravaged regions of the province isn’t lost on the community’s destination marketing arm.
Destination Osoyoos is working with Destination BC and the Thompson Okanagan Tourist Association (TOTA) to offer an alternative to tourists as plans to visit BC are dashed by wildfire and smoke.
“TOTA is trying to encourage people to come down here because we’re the best area to go to,” said Kelsey Archibald, DO’s Communications and Visitor Services coordinator.
“We’re communicating — just about every hour now — with Destination BC and TOTA and they’re getting out our information both regionally and throughout the province.”
But the information DO’s team can provide is being limited somewhat by a tourism community that hasn’t yet caught up with Destination Osoyoos’s initiative.
DO made a pitch to local tourism operators last week, inviting them to provide special offers and discounts “to encourage displaced travellers and others affected by the fires to come to Osoyoos.”
So far, only two operators have stepped forward with incentives — the Lakeview Motel offering a 10% discount and Desert Park offering free boarding for horses and other equines.
“We know some operators have been (marketing incentives) on their own,” said Kelsey.
But, for whatever the reason, many other operators are just not participating.
And they’re missing out.
Destination Osoyoos’s Facebook page has more than 92,000 likes and is followed by more than 88,000 people. It also has healthy Twitter and Instagram followings.
“Our social channels are at 100,000 people,” Kelsey said. “That’s a huge benefit.”
That makes for an online marketing opportunity otherwise unavailable to most local tourist operators.
If that’s not enough to send local businesses scurrying in droves, DO is also piloting a “mobile visitor services” effort this summer that has staff members wandering about the community and offering instant advice — including about where to take the family for a fun afternoon.
But those wandering ambassadors can’t pass along special deals if they don’t have them in their hands.
Other DO resources are monitoring social media feeds and providing immediate responses to questions and concerns.
“With everything that’s going on, were getting people either tweeting directly at us or direct messaging us,” said Kelsey. “We have four people (responding).”
That effort, she added, is beyond the nine-to-five workday.
“I’m always responding to people at night as well if they have questions,” she said.
So far, the community’s tourism providers have remained busy, with hotel and resort occupancy at between 85 and 90 percent during the week and even higher occupancy rates on weekends.
The messaging that Osoyoos remains open for business is getting out.
“People want to hear straight from the source if they are travelling to Osoyoos,” said Kelsey.
“It’s been helpful, from our end, to keep people informed.”