Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

After a week-long stay in Kelowna, B.C., back in 2016, Troy Harmon and his family knew they would one day come back to visit.

“We fell in love with it on our last trip,” Harmon told Global News.

The Australian family decided to plan a trip back to the Okanagan in the fall of 2024 and have already booked their one-month-long accommodation, a two-bedroom apartment in downtown Kelowna.

But their plans are now in limbo in the wake of provincial legislation cracking down on short-term rentals.

“Obviously it would have a pretty big impact on our trip that we’re planning,” Harmon said. “We’d planned to spend about four months in Canada and Kelowna was a huge part of that trip.”

The new rules are the provincial government’s response to the housing crisis in an effort to turn short-term rentals into long-term ones.

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The legislation will ban vacation rentals, including the one already booked by Harmon, forcing him to re-consider his plans.

“If it gets passed, we probably won’t come to B.C. for an extended period of time because we need the space.  We want to be able to cook. We want to be able to have space for our boys to be separated,  not to live on top of each other,” Harmon said. “So yeah, we might have to look at other plans in terms of where to go.”

Local tourism associations have yet to address the potential impact of the new rules.

Neither Tourism Kelowna nor the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) are ready to speak on the potential hit to the local tourism industry.

In an email to Global news, Tourism Kelowna stated, “We are one of the many organizations taking the time to examine what the regulations might mean for the stakeholders we serve,” while  TOTA said, “We still need additional information before we fully understand what the positives and negatives may be.”

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For the hotel industry,  it will likely mean an uptick in business and despite some two million tourists visiting Kelowna every year, the B.C. Hotel Association said local hotels do have the capacity to accommodate the visitors.

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“I think the concept that hotels are full in the high season is not necessarily completely true,” said Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the B.C. Hotel Association.

Jarrett added tourists will still have many accommodation options to choose from.

“I do not believe that this will limit the tourism capacity nor the demand for tourism,” Jarrett said.  “I think we will still have many, many short-term rentals and there are currently many licensed short-term rentals in Kelowna.”

But despite being licensed by the city, they may not be legal for much longer.

“The provincial legislation could trump our legislation and supersede it,” said Kelowna mayor Tom Dyas.

The new short term legislation is slated to go into effect in May.

“It’s hugely disappointing for us,” said Harmon.

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