B.C. travellers coming to Vancouver Island as wildfires sweep mainland

As of Wednesday morning, there are nearly 300 wildfires burning throughout B.C. That caused Ilyas Sahib to rethink his family's summer travel plans and come to Victoria.

“We were looking at the Okanagan, we were looking at the Central Interior, and with the fires, unfortunately, and the availability of the rooms, we kind of started looking elsewhere,” said Sahib.

Others who were already on the island have decided to extend their stay.

“So far by a couple of days, but if the fires continue and the smoke is bad we’ll extend as long as we can,” said Jenn Barge.

The Barge family is here from Calgary, AB, which is currently under a thick blanket of smoke.

“(We're staying) as long as possible to enjoy the fresh air and avoid being stuck inside, basically,” said Mike Barge. “The smoke in Alberta hasn’t been fun.”

With the interior of B.C. expecting a continued stretch of warm, dry weather, and with night winds ahead, B.C.’s premier is asking all travellers to do their research.

“For those people who have reservations, check with your accommodations and see what the people on the ground are telling you and then make your decisions,” said Premier John Horgan.

“I expect people may have to change their plans and find other places in the province to stay and hopefully Victoria is one of those,” said Bill Lewis, chair of the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria. “We certainly feel for our colleagues in the Okanagan.”

Currently, overall hotel occupancy in Victoria is sitting at around 50 per cent.

“Victoria is open for business and there’s lots of rooms here in Victoria,” said Lewis.

The always-popular Tofino is a different story.

“We are essentially more or less 100 per cent full for the months of certainly July and August, and I would say most of September as well,” said Charles McDiarmid, managing director with the Wickaninnish Inn.

Tofino's popularity gives other destinations on Vancouver Island an opportunity of getting some of that much-needed tourism business.

“We’re just soaking in the sights and sounds of our capital and, you know, just enjoying some family time,” said Ilyas. “It’s not so bad.” 

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