Declining Tourism Sparks B.C. Initiative
High gas prices seem to be taking a toll on some of Osoyoos’s hotels, motels and campgrounds, keeping some tourists away and changing the habits of those who are coming to this area of British Columbia to vacation, according to the Osoyoos Times.
“Normally at this time of year I’m running full and this year I’m not,” said Cathy Herbert, owner of Brookvale Holiday Resort, adding that 15% of the RV resort’s 105 spots were vacant. She said she thought the decrease was a direct result of the rising price of gas.
“We’re not getting the drive-bys that usually come in and top up our vacancy,” Herbert said, adding she thought more people were carefully planning their vacations. She said she’s also seen more tents this summer than usual. “What they camp in will change, but I don’t think they won’t camp,” Herbert said. She said there are more reservations for the resort for August but it still wasn’t fully booked.
The community is located at a popular border crossing between Canada and Washington.
Over at the Nk’Mip Campground and RV Resort, manager Chris Bower said the park’s 326 sites have been occupied every night since the beginning of July and that the park is receiving drive-in traffic. However, Bower did say the resort has not had to use its overflow area, which it used for periods in the summer of 2007.
With the Canadian dollar near par with its American counterpart, more British Columbians are making their way south of the border to camp, the senior administrator for Washington State Parks said last week. Don Powell compared visitor statistics for Osoyoos Lake State Park near Oroville for the period of May 15 to July 15 of 2007 to that same period this year and found that overall visitation was up by 7.8%.
He added that while last year British Columbians made up 42.6% of the park’s visitors, this year they accounted for exactly half. The park has 87 campsites. Meanwhile, it appears the number of travelers crossing the border into Osoyoos has actually increased from last year. Canadian Border Services statistics show that while 46,812 travelers came into Canada at the border crossing in June of 2007, 48,746 crossed in June of this year.
Amid the growing concern, a new coalition will promote camping and recreational vehicle use throughout the province. The Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition – which includes nine industry and government partners – will work with a $100,000-plus annual budget to boost business, according to the Vancouver Sun.
"We'll look at the long term because there are going to be recessions and ups and downs in travel," coalition chair Joss Penny said in an interview. "We want to collectively market camping and RVing in B.C. as the premier product in North America."
He said campground occupancy throughout B.C. fell by more than 5% in June to 44.15%, with operators citing high gas prices and slumping U.S. travel to Canada as major factors.
The coalition has launched a new consumer website – www.campingrvbc.com – and will print promotional marketing materials and pursue travel media campaigns to generate publicity. Multilingual marketing campaigns will also be used.
"We want to encourage new immigrants to B.C. to experience camping and tenting and RVing because they're really our next big group and a way to grow our future," Penny said.
He said the coalition will focus on keeping more B.C. residents traveling within the province and on attracting more business from other provinces.
Tourism BC-approved private campgrounds generated an estimated $80 million in revenue in 2006 while RV rentals throughout B.C. accounted for more than $20 million in food purchases and other expenditures. Provincial park campgrounds generate more than $11 million annually.