The pandemic has had a significant impact on tourism operators in this province, including South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris based out of Oliver.
However, through the support of the BC Tourism Resiliency Network and with the current rollout of a provincial vaccination program, South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris is holding out hope that they can shift gears and enjoy a successful 2021.
Three years ago, Max Barclay and his wife Debbie decided it was the right time 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 recognized the potential business opportunity in offering e-biking excursions in one of the most beautiful parts of B.C., combining wine touring with cycling.
In Barclay’s words, “We love exploring this unique piece of heaven we now call home, and we love to cycle,” and that in a nutshell is the story behind South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris.
Max and Debbie aren’t just the owners; they are also the tour guides.
Each tour they offer is four to five hours long, visiting some of the finest wineries in the region, from tours of Naramata to excursions around Osoyoos.
Their typical customer is between 55 to 70 years of age, and the beauty of an e-bike is that it can help out with the pedalling when you need it, said Max.
Year one 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 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 significantly impacted their bottom line.
The assistance of the BC Tourism Resiliency Network was, in Max’s words, “phenomenal.”
“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.”
The BC Regional Tourism Secretariat created the BC Tourism Resiliency Network to support businesses through the pandemic, providing advice and assistance.
With the traditional tourist season approaching, Barclay 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 said.
The unknown presents challenges because Barclay cannot book space for groups larger than six — and only from the same household — with partner wineries, which are largely reservation-based. He is also hesitant to market the opportunity to the customer base in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island until British Columbians are advised they can once again travel freely within the province.
“It’s not easy, but we have to be patient and hope that the vaccination program and people’s ongoing attention to reducing the spread will mean better things this summer,” added Barclay.
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