Business operators in Fernie are cautiously optimistic for the coming winter season after a better-than-expected summer. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fernie Chamber of Commerce: Summer wasn’t so bad after all

Conditions were choppy but the season didn’t go as poorly as originally imagined for the town

In an end-of-summer chamber zoom call, chamber president Brad Parsell said that all things considered, summer had turned out to be enough of a success for optimism to be creeping into businesses around town as they looked towards winter.

”I think (summer) was busier than we all thought (it would be),” said Parsell afterwards.

“I think it was probably a more successful summer than some of us had feared. That’s not to say there weren’t people that struggled,” he added, pointing to hardship for local operators in the fly fishing sector as well as for the Fernie movie theatre.

Tourism Fernie has also reported a better summer than had been feared, with many operators and accomodators managing to outperform not just pessimistic numbers for the 2020 season, but numbers seen in the year prior.

READ MORE: That’s a wrap: Summer tourism outperforms pessimistic forecast

More than 40 Fernie businesses tuned into the zoom update on Thursday, and Parsell said among chamber members there was “positivity” around winter.

“I think we can be somewhat positive about winter. We all know as tourism operators that the vast majority of our visitation in winter is Canadian anyway usually. We’re not a Whistler or a Banff, where having the border close is a complete deal-breaker,” he said.

“There’s an exception to everything, but as a general statement, the demand’s going to be there on the tourism side, and we’re pretty confident we’re going to have the workforce. The pinch point is going to be housing, there’s no doubt about it.”

Parsell explained that given the changed dynamic in work forces, many people with second homes in Fernie could likely be planning on using them over winter and working remotely, denying the town a vital source of housing for seasonal workers and visiting tourists. Another issue with housing is unease in renting out rooms to strangers given the pandemic.

The combination of these factors “could see our housing stock, which is already not enough, reduce even more.”

“We’re somewhat cautiously optimistic about demand and we’re optimistic about the labour force, but we’re pretty concerned about where everyone’s going to live.”
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