Kelowna International Airport. —Image: Capital News file

Kelowna International Airport. —Image: Capital News file

Passenger numbers drop at Kelowna International Airport as coronavirus grips globe

Director Sam Samaddar said passenger numbers are down almost 4% year-over-year

Traffic through Kelowna International Airport has dropped as the global epidemic from the novel coronavirus takes hold.

Sam Samaddar, the airport’s director, said traffic through the airport has decreased by 3.8 per cent when comparing January 2019 to January 2020.

Samaddar blamed part of the passenger decline through the airport on the spread of the virsus, which has infected more than 100,000 people around the world and killed more than 3,800 people.

“The impacts from the novel coronavirus is definitely having an affect on the passenger decline,” said Samaddar.

“People have been adjusting, cancelling or rebooking their flights at the airport because of this.”

Samaddar said the airport has done all they can to help prevent the spread of the virus in the Interior.

“We’ve added additional cleaning measures at our airport on a daily basis,” said Samaddar.

“Our Canadian customs’ officers also are getting briefed everyday on the current state of the novel coronavirus.”

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Samaddar said the grounding of 737 max jets and deteriorating relations with China over the Huawei scandal have also had an impact.

CEO of Tourism Kelowna Lianne Ballantyne said visitor numbers are also down at some Kelowna hotels.

“We’ve heard from some hotels that they are suffering from a decline in group tours,” said Ballantyne.

“That includes cancellations from Asian companies that would’ve seen tourists come to Vancouver and the Interior.”

Ballantyne said a recent recommendation by the Public Health Agency advising Canadians against all cruise ship travel could also mean less tourism to the Okanagan.

Ballayntine said if visitation is down at major ports like Vancouver, that means less people will be hopping on a bus to visit other popular tourism destinations like Kelowna.

According to the Health Canada, there have been 79 confirmed cases of the virus in Canada, including 37 in B.C. One death was also reported at a seniors care facility in B.C. on March 9.

If passengers are thinking of changing their travel plans, Samaddar said there’s never been a better time for Canadians to explore their own country this summer.

“The novel coronavirus is currently a low health risk in Canada,” said Samaddar.

“I certainly advise people to travel in Canada as an alternative plan if they choose not to visit Asia due to the novel coronavirus.”

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