Shuswap businesses take a hit this summer

Rain, flooding and negative media reports all contributed to a poor June and July for many businesses in Sicamous.

Greg Kyllo

Rain, flooding and negative media reports all contributed to a poor June and July for many businesses in Sicamous.

A cursory survey by the Eagle Valley News confirmed that flooding and its aftermath frightened tourists away from many businesses.

Corrinne Cross, executive director at the Sicamous and District Chamber of Commerce, said the poor season began with all the rain in June.

“Then with our event on June 23 (the flooding at Two Mile), it came to a crashing halt. Then the subsequent water problems, and the subsequent Global TV bad media, we took quite a hit.”

Cross has been working on an impact analysis, which indicates Sicamous businesses, generally, were down 35 to 60 per cent this July over the same period last year.

However, Sicamous launched a “We are open” campaign after the flooding to encourage tourists to visit. Big tanks of potable water were brought in and plumbed into water lines so restaurants were able to prepare food safely, make ice and serve water.

“August was very good. It was not enough, though – percentages were up from last year, which was not a good year.”

Two businesses closed, but one new one moved into one of the vacant spots.

Cross said problems with media coverage began when, in the mass confusion immediately following the flooding, an Alberta resident whose vehicle was destroyed was told emergency funding was for B.C. residents only.

“That got rectified right away,” she said, with steps such as out-of-province vouchers and the Junor B Eagles’ bus shuttling people back to Calgary.

“We knows what pays the bills and keeps us open,” she said of the Alberta tourists valued by Sicamous.

Along with the spread of that story, Cross said news networks would pose in the street in the most flooded area to give their reports.

At the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce, manager Corryn Grayston confirms that the Visitor Info Centre received many inquiries from would-be visitors who believed communities all around the lake, including Salmon Arm and Scotch Creek, were under water.

While the tourist season is winding down, Cross said workshops have been held to help businesses hone their skills so they can promote themselves for the upcoming winter and summer seasons. Cross also points out that provincial funds are available for small business training.

Greg Kyllo, president of both Twin Anchors Marine and TA Structures, points out that local businesses earn 70 per cent of their revenue in about 10 weeks.

“If you lose four weeks of that, it’s a huge number,” he says, estimating it’s about 35 per cent of gross revenues for many.

While September looks comparable to the year previous, the business community has definitely been hit hard.

“I know a lot of businesses, last year was tough. They were looking for a good year this year to justify staying in business this year. We probably won’t see the full effects until this winter or next year.”

While the houseboat business has been slow in the past four years, he says, at Twin Anchors manufacturing operation, which creates worker accommodation primarily for oil and gas companies, sales were up 60 per cent this year over last.

Twin Anchors houseboats didn’t see the drop some businesses did. Todd Kyllo, president of operations, said houseboat rental revenues were down only slightly.

“For us, for our company, we were down about five per cent from last year.

We were pretty lucky in that we could still operate during all the mayhem that was going on.”

He said no refunds were given on rentals; if people weren’t happy with their time slot, they were given a different one.

“Really, the water was only a meter higher than last year’s high level. Once you got out on the lake there wasn’t a big difference.”

At Hyde Mountain Golf Course, director of golf Rick Thompson says June and July were “very, very, very slow, because the media were saying Sicamous was under water and it technically wasn’t.”

August, however, was very good.

At Lukies Groceries Gifts and Fly Fishing, Mary Choi says August was not too bad, almost the same as last year. However, July was 40 per cent down and June was slower than last year.

“I feel every year it’s getting worse.”

At the Best Western Sicamous Inn, too, the season had a rocky start but improved.

“Obviously June we were anticipating a great season…,” said manager Loretta Corless. “The flood dramatically decreased that. We probably noticed a 20-per-cent decrease in business. I think the media reports of disaster scared people off, even though we were not affected and had some of the best weather. August was pretty much on par. People started to realize all of B.C. wasn’t flooding.”