Last year was one in which the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on many tourism operators in this province, including South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris.
However, through the support of the BC Tourism Resiliency Network and rollout of a provincial vaccination program, the business’s owners are holding out hope they can shift gears and enjoy a successful 2021.
Max Barclay and his wife Debbie decided three years ago that the time was right to relocate from Edmonton to the sunny Okanagan – but retirement was not in their plans. Instead, as avid cyclists, they saw electric bicycles were growing in popularity. They also recognized the potential business opportunity in offering e-biking excursions in one of the most beautiful parts of British Columbia.
Each tour is a total of four to five hours, during which participants have the option of different excursions along natural bike paths and a visit to some of the finest wineries in the region.
The typical participant is between 55 and 70 years of age, and the beauty of an e-bike is that it doesn’t limit those who might otherwise find such an adventure too challenging.
Year one was of their business was focused on establishing a foothold in the local tourism market. In year two, South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris experienced a big increase in advance bookings early in 2020…and then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
While the business didn’t skid to a complete halt, they heeded cautions by public health officials and limited bookings to household groups, which had a significant impact on their bottom line.
Assistance from the BC Tourism Resiliency Network during this period has been critical, says Max.
“As a newly established business, they helped us access information and suggested we participate in webinars that we might find useful. They also helped point us toward programs such as the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, administered by Community Futures – which is an important part of the safety net,” he says.
With the traditional tourist season approaching, Max is hoping 2021 will be a positive one.
“We are hoping to incorporate larger social bubbles into our excursions and take on multiple bookings at the same time, but that will very much depend on the advice of health officials,” he says.
Support for the BC Tourism Resiliency Network is delivered through five tourism regions, in this case the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association.