The Canada and United States border is currently staying closed until Oct. 21. (Western News file)

Osoyoos happy to leave border closed

Tourism from B.C. has bolstered the town’s economy over the summer

The Town of Osoyoos is comfortable keeping the border closed as long as necessary.

“We’re quite happy to leave it the way it is,” said mayor Sue McKortoff. “We have been happy all along that the border has been closed, because we do know that there were many more cases than we had in B.C. down in Washington.”

There were some concerns at the start of the year about how Osoyoos, which traditionally draws a substantial influx of tourists from the United States, would fare over the summer.

Those concerns turned out to be unnecessary, with the town having a busy summer even as other communities found their numbers down. Travellers from around the province filled in the void instead, to the point that concern was more for safety than finances.

“I have always been a little concerned over the summer, we were so busy with people in the hotels, that it might get out of hand, might get too much,” said McKortoff. “Fortunately, people were careful, our businesses were careful, and people enjoyed coming here.”

With the border closure currently extended to Oct. 21, and likely through the end of the year, the town is looking to stay busy over the winter season with snowbirds who can’t cross the border.

“You couldn’t find a place in Osoyoos to park an RV or a motorhome, they’re all full,” said McKortoff. “Many of our hotels and motels are full with snowbirds who might have originally gone down to Mexico or the States. We’re very fortunate in Osoyoos.”

The occupancy numbers for the summer support the feeling, with a presentation by Travel Penticton to Penticton’s council pointing to how successful Osoyoos was. Their hotel occupancy dropped by only 0.4 per cent for the month of July from 2019 to 2020.

With the economics less of a concern thanks to the rest of the province visiting over the summer, the border staying closed is more of a safety matter, and one that the mayor feels the town supports.

“It’s something I think were quite happy with, to keep the border systems closed right now,” said McKortoff. “It doesn’t seem to make sense to open them.”

“If the borders were open now, coming into fall and winter, that would mean a lot more people presumably inside, and that’s not what Doctor Henry is advising.”

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