British Columbia News
Changes for camping reservations to ensure fairness for users
Monday, November 7, 2016 10:30 AM
Monday, November 7, 2016 10:30 AM
Changes to the BC Parks Discover Camping Reservation Service for the 2017 season aim to improve fair access for everyone looking to book a campsite in B.C.’s world-class provincial parks.
Beginning in 2017, the mid-March “opening day” for reservations will be eliminated and the three-month rolling reservation window will be extended. Reservations for the 2017 season can be made four months in advance of an individual campground’s first reservable date.
Other changes include new measures to prevent the reselling of reservations, restrictions around altering arrival dates to prevent the practice of ‘overbooking’ where coveted reservations, including long-weekends, are unfairly secured, and implementing a pilot project in select parks to reduce the maximum length of stay to seven days during the peak camping season in order to provide more camping opportunities in provincial parks.
The changes being implemented are in response to concerns raised during the 2016 camping season and will take effect Jan. 2, 2017. Every year BC Parks improves the reservation service by conducting annual reviews, reviewing customer feedback and by increasing the number of campgrounds and sites on the system.
Mary Polak, Minister of Environment —
“We want to make sure the campsite reservation service is doing its job as effectively and efficiently as possible. We know British Columbians want a reservation system that is fair, and that they have just as good a chance of securing a campsite as the next person. The changes we’re bringing in for 2017 address policies that are prone to abuse by a small number of people and contribute to positive camping experiences in our beautiful BC Parks.”
- Of the approximate 10,700 campsites BC Parks manages, approximately 55% are reservable while 45% remain on a first-come, first-serve (FCFS) basis.
- 2016 marked another record year with more than 185,000 reservations (as of mid-September) made through Discover Camping with the majority of reservations (approximately 72%) originating from British Columbia.
- Demand for BC Parks’ campsite reservations through Discover Camping has grown by over 91% in the last five years.
- Everyone is given access to the reservable campsite inventory at the same time. No one, including commercial operators, are given preferential treatment to reserve campsites and the system does not allow block campsite reservations.
- Less than 1% of the more than 185,000 bookings in 2016 (as of mid-September), were made by commercial operators. For the most part, these companies booked short stays of two days or less, with the majority occurring Sunday through Thursday.
- Reservations are held until 11 a.m. the day after the scheduled arrival date. If the park is not notified of a late arrival, the site becomes available for others to enjoy.
- The Discover Camping reservation system has been in place since 1996.
- The Discover Camping reservation system is paid for through reservation fees. There is no cost to taxpayers and service charges remain at 1996 pricing.
To learn more about the Discover Camping reservation system, and to book your next camping trip, please visit: https://secure.camis.com/Discovercamping/
To learn more about BC Parks, please visit: www.bcparks.ca
A backgrounder follows.
Eliminating the opening day for reservations and extending the rolling reservation window from three to four months
- This change should eliminate the situation where the reservation system is overwhelmed due to intense demand on ‘opening day’ by customers, many of whom are seeking to reserve on different dates.
- Reservations for the 2017 season can now be made four months in advance of an individual campground’s first reservable date.
- First reservable dates vary by campground, but many come into effect starting mid-May. It will be up to the customer to confirm the date their desired campground will be open for reservations.
- Customers will be able to plan their vacations an additional one month further in advance than the previous three month planning horizon.
- Extending the planning horizon to a longer timeframe is consistent with what other comparable jurisdictions do, including Washington State and Ontario.
Addressing the issue of reselling and/or transferring reservations by removing the ability of permit holders to change the names on their reservation.
- In 2016, BC Parks is aware of 46 incidents of attempts to resell Discover Camping reservations (out of more than 185,000 reservations made as of mid-September).
- Starting Jan. 2, 2017, when a customer makes a reservation, they will be required to provide one or two permit holder names to be registered. These names cannot be changed at a later date.
- At least one of the permit holders must be present during the stay, and identification may be required to keep the reservation valid.
- This will remove ability for someone to resell a reservation, then later change the permit holder’s name to a third party name.
Addressing the practice of overbooking, when a customer makes a reservation to include more nights than are needed to secure a desired date and later cancels the dates that they never intended to use.
- The overbooking practice took place in approximately 1% of total reservations in 2016, but is increasing.
- BC Parks is implementing a new policy to restrict a reservation holder’s ability to change their arrival date if they book on or within seven days of a “release date”. A release date is defined as the maximum time in advance of a trip that a customer can make a reservation on Discover Camping.
- This policy only applies to customers who try to change their arrival date. Customers will still have the ability to change their departure date.
- Customers, who book within this seven-day period and want to change their arrival date, will have to cancel the reservation and re-book. Cancelled inventory will be released the next day at 7a.m. and will be available to all customers making a reservation at this time.
- BC Parks chose to restrict bookings seven days after a release date as it is a sufficient amount of time to stop the practice of overbooking, while minimizing the impact to other customers that legitimately need to change their arrival date.
- Customers will be notified during the reservation process that they will be unable to change their arrival date.
- Customers, who book after the seven-day restricted booking period, will be able to change their arrival date.
Pilot project to create more camping opportunities in high demand parks
- Given the high demand for camping opportunities in certain provincial campgrounds, BC Parks is implementing a pilot project to shorten the 14-day maximum stay policy to seven days in five high-occupancy campgrounds during the peak season (June 15 to Labour Day inclusive).
- Provincial campgrounds included in this pilot project are Martha Creek (near Revelstoke), Mount Fernie (near Fernie), Porteau Cove (near Vancouver), Loveland Bay (near Campbell River) and Ellison (near Vernon).
- Implementing a seven-night maximum stay policy in high demand campgrounds during peak season creates camping opportunities for more families.
- These campgrounds were selected for a maximum seven-night policy because they have exceptionally high demand with a relatively limited number of campsites.
- Reducing the maximum time a party can stay in these campgrounds is projected to create more than 1,000 campsite/night vacancies, freeing up space for more people to stay at these high-demand campgrounds.
Expanding Discover Camping Call Centre hours
- To provide Discover Camping users with enhanced customer service, starting Jan. 2, 2017, the Call Centre will open from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Pacific Time) daily.
- The Discover Camping Call Centre is currently available to assist customers with making their reservations from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Pacific Time) on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and holidays.
- The Call Centre is available to customers who prefer personalized service to assist with their campsite reservations. Customers using the Call Centre to make a reservation must pay a $5.00 surcharge.
- The Call Centre is open Saturdays, Sundays and Statutory holidays with the exception of Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
Making more campsites reservable
- There are 124 campgrounds and over 6,000 frontcountry (vehicle accessible/group/walk-in) campsites on the Discover Camping Reservation Service.
- Two new frontcountry campgrounds will be added to the Discover Camping reservation service: Skagit Valley (near Hope) and Mount Robson — Lucerne Campground (near Valemount).
- With the success of launching reservations in select high-use campgrounds in Garibaldi Park (near Squamish) in 2016, three new campgrounds will be added to the reservation service for the 2017 season: Helm, Cheakamus and Singing Creek.
- Golden Ears (near Vancouver) is better meeting public demand by significantly increasing the number of reservable sites at two popular campgrounds, Gold Creek and Alouette Lake.