Real-time emergency info touted

Thick smoke forced the cancellation of last summer's Kelowna Apple Triathlon, parts of which were to wend through downtown. Tourism operators are getting new funding from the government to advise visitors of the impact of natural disasters.

Visitors to B.C. will get updates on natural disasters such as fires and floods from tourism operators under a new government-funded program.

The $200,000 scheme, which includes $25,000 to the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association, is aimed at promoting “real-time information sharing,” according to a government release.

“The last two summers of unprecedented wildfires were hard on tourism-dependent communities,” Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said in the release, issued Saturday.

“We know that one of the biggest challenges the industry faced was getting accurate, up-to-date information to visitors,” she said.

“This year, we’re helping the tourism sector prepare to keep visitors safe during emergencies and making sure tourism in affected areas can recover quickly,” Beare said.

Groups like TOTA will use the cash to create communication tools and expand their tourism database to provide wide dissemination of the size and impact of natural disasters.

“Timely, accurate information is essential in emergencies,” parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness Jennifer Rice said in the release.

“This investment is helping the industry to plan ahead so people can get the information they need, when they need it, keeping visitors safe and local economies strong,” Rice said.

Tourism in B.C. is an $18.4-billion business employing more than 137,000 people.

In the past two years, the provincial government has spent $2.7 million to help attract tourists back to areas affected by wildfires.

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