With files from The Simi Sara Show.
BC’s Environment Minister is blaming the controversy over sold-out campgrounds on a lack of supply and sky-rocketing demand.
Mark Polak spoke with Simi Sara and says despite the criticism, foreign visitors and those on package tours only account for one percent of reservations for provincial campsites.
The minister’s comments are in response to mounting public frustration over sold-out BC Parks campgrounds.
Recent news that travel companies are block-booking campgrounds and re-selling the bookings to international travellers only fanned the flames.
Minister Polak says that they are monitoring those businesses, and preliminary findings show that they only make up one per cent of the total online reservations.
2015 a record-setting year for international campers in BC, making up 25% of all bookings
However, according to the province last fall, only 73% of all campground bookings in 2015 originated in BC, with a quarter of all bookings coming from outside the province.
Aside from the US, visitors were from all over the globe, including Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, the UK and Australia.
Yet Minister Polak denies that’s contributing to the the problem.
“It is NOT an issue of people from outside and booking them up, the numbers just don’t bear that out.”
LISTEN to the full interview with Minister Polak:
Increasing supply will take time
Polak says the province is looking at increasing supply, but it will take time.
“A lot of these places don’t have available space so we are certainly turning our minds to that but it is not going to be something we can fix quickly, and demand has just grown exponentially. We’ve seen an 80% increase in people using our reservation system in just the last five years.”
The NDP says government should ban private companies from booking and reselling campsites.
Giving B.C. residents priority
This week Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver waded into the controversy with two suggestions for how to deal with the problem.
1. Allowing B.C. residents advanced time to book campground ahead of non-BC residents.
2. Reserve a portion of the campground sites for B.C. residents only.
Weaver says the government needs to recognize that parks are owned by B.C. residents and its problematic that they can’t get access to their own parks.
BC has a total of 5,800 reservable sites
Problems began this year, as soon as the online reservation system opened in the spring, with the system crashing momentarily after it opened at 7:00 am, and many people finding the campgrounds they wanted were completely sold out within minutes.
Currently, the total inventory is 10,700 sites and according to Minister Polak, about 5,800 of those are reservable.
“We can make some changes with respect to maybe opening some of the first-come first-serve sites to be reservable, that may be an answer in some locations.”
She says other options may be narrowing down the time people can book, which is now 14 days maximum.
In 2015, more than 158,000 reservations were made through the system.