Ski resorts in B.C.’s Interior are bracing for financial fallout from highway closures and travel restrictions that leave them cut off from the Lower Mainland.
Senior vice president of Big White ski resort Michael J Ballingall said the resort has already seen more than 70 cancellations for holiday bookings. The wave of cancellations comes as the resort continues to deal with lost revenues and staffing issues from COVID-19.
“This is the worst of the worst. We understand there’s a pandemic we have to deal with. We understand the airline business is in a state of flux. We did the best we could to fill our resort for Christmas and New Year’s. Now there’s been a natural disaster and we’re dealing with that.”
Ballingall said that 40 per cent of visitors to Big White are destination tourists who stay at the resort for at least one night, but with non-essential travel restricted and the Coquihalla out of commission until late January at the earliest, tourists are left with little option but to fly or cancel.
Silver Star mountain resort echoed Ballingall’s concerns about being cut off from the Lower Mainland but said they haven’t yet seen the same level of cancellations.
“We haven’t received many cancellations yet but if the highways remain closed between the Interior and the Lower Mainland after Dec. 1 we absolutely will be impacted. The holiday season is our busiest time of year and we rely heavily on tourists visiting and staying at SilverStar during this time,” Silver Star media relations manager Chantelle Deacon said.
Sun Peaks resort near Kamloops has seen some cancellations as well. Like Silver Star, they’re waiting for Dec. 1 to assess their approach based on highway conditions and any potential trip cancellations.
The Ministry of Arts, Culture and Sport said in a statement to Black Press that financial supports are available to business owners who have been impacted by B.C.’s extreme weather events, including disaster financial assistance, tax remittance relief, bill relief and emergency management resources.
Destination B.C. is developing plans to support resorts and advise the public on ways to access resorts once travel restrictions are lifted. The organization has marketing funds available to promote alternative travel routes like airlines.
“There are a number of additional options for people looking to get to ski resorts including flying by air. Swoop just announced flights between Abbotsford and Kelowna six days per week and WestJet, Air Canada and Air North have added extra flights, larger aircraft and locked fares,” ministry spokesperson Cala Wormald said.
Destination B.C. is set to release a “How to Travel to B.C. this Winter” guide in early December that will share information on roads and routes for leisure travel.
In the meantime, resorts like Big White are girding themselves for further cancellations.
“We just have to deal with it as it comes. We’ll get through this,” Ballingall said.
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