B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat

Now that British Columbians have gotten the ‘green light’ to travel within B.C., accommodators across the province hope the lines start lighting up.

“The most encouraging thing is when the phones are ringing,” said Ingrid Jarrett, CEO and president of BC Hotel Association. “We have some areas experiencing very strong reservations, but the majority of them are not.”

Health regulations and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries. A recent survey revealed one third of accommodations owners were unsure whether they’ll survive until the spring of 2021, Jarrett said.

“Everybody wants to save their summer,” she said. “People have been waiting for the green light to travel.”

READ MORE: B.C. reopening travel not sitting well with several First Nations

According to Statistics Canada, 24 per cent of the 31 million U.S. and overseas travellers to Canada visited British Columbia in 2018. This summer, the country’s tourism sector will have to rely entirely on Canadians.

On June 24, Premier John Horgan and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the province was moving into Phase 3 of the economic reopening, giving the go-ahead for most sectors to reopen with enhanced public safety protocols. The two also encouraged B.C. residents to support this province’s sites and businesses.

While some hotels, campgrounds and boutique-type accommodations had begun to open before the announcement, the endorsement of within-BC travel signaled the official opening of the summer tourism season.

Vital Signs

About 82 per cent of the province’s 3,000 accommodators — including bed and breakfasts, motels, cottages, lodges, and hotels — are independently-owned and operated, said Jarrett. As of last week, 60 per cent were open, but the industry is far from healthy because they are missing out on the international market.

While Horgan and Henry acknowledged the freedom of movement enjoyed by Yukon and Alberta residents into British Columbia, traffic flow from other Canadian regions hasn’t yet been encouraged. Which means, at this point, British Columbians will make up most of the customer base for the province’s accommodations sector. In 2014, 604,000 British Columbians visited Northern B.C. and about 45 per cent of them stayed in hotels, motels, campsites or other accommodations, according to Destination BC.

READ MORE: ‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise

Local Perspective

“The usual market at this time of the year is Europeans in their rental RVs,” said Pat Reimer, co-owner of iRVin’s RV Park and Campground. In a typical summer, about a third of their customers are from the U.S. and other international locations. “It’s a big hole,” she said.

While all her American customers cancelled, resource development crews have helped keep the lights on. As well, she still has some regulars and a few off-the-highway `overnighters.’

“I know there are some places in BC that are still saying, `No, we’re not going to have any Albertans,” she said, “but I hope … we’re not complaining about having people from other provinces coming in.”

Being so close to Alberta, there is a lot of traffic both ways across the border, she said.

“Everybody’s following the same rules and doing the same things,” she said “It’s not like we’re putting ourselves in more danger by taking somebody from Alberta than from here in BC.”

British Columbians don’t usually visit iRVin’ RV Park and Campground as a destination, added Reimer. “They’re usually on their way somewhere else and that often means into Alberta.”

About 85 per cent of the people who normally stay at the three-room Jailhouse Bed and Breakfast in Valemount are international travellers, said owner Marie Birkbeck, who runs the business out of a former RCMP detachment.

June, July and August are the busiest months and the business is usually running at about 90 to 100 per cent capacity. So, far in June, there have been two bookings. “That’s my whole month of June,” said Birkbeck.

“The last three years were so busy I had to block rooms off so I could have time to breathe,” she said. “This year, it’s like, not so much.”

With last week’s announcement, Birkbeck is hopeful. So far, there’s been a tiny uptick in calls.

“I’ve got somebody coming from Vancouver later on in July and we’ve got a little bit of local tourism,” she said. “I don’t know how much people are going to travel. So, we’ll see.”

How to help 

When booking, call direct, Jarrett says. Booking services such as Expedia, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and others, charge fees spanning from 15 to 32 per cent, she said.

“Having those direct bookings will make an enormous difference.”

Meanwhile, tourist destinations need to make clear what they’re offering and that they’re open for business, said Jarrett.

The province has some well-known travel corridors, such as the North Thompson, which runs from Jasper through Kamloops, Jarett said. “We need to make sure we’re telling the stories of the regions… so we can entice people to start making reservations and making their plans.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusTourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Longtime basketball coach Allison McNeill is worried that the COVID-19 pandemic will adversely affect high-school athletes with university athletic aspirations. (Garrett James/Langley Events Centre photo)
COVID-19: Young athletes scrambling for scholarships, opportunities amid pandemic

‘They lost their whole Grade 12 year’ says Semiahmoo basketball coach Allison McNeill

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
White Rock woman among dozens in Lower Mainland to benefit from Elder Dog program

Dog-care organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but requires more clients to serve

Travis Selje with Rex, the family dog he got to enjoy for the final six months of his life. (Submitted photo)
Defence says evidence ‘compelling, overwhelming’ to acquit Surrey woman in deadly crash

Epileptic seizure caused fatal crash that killed Travis Selje, lawyer argues in final submissions

TEASER
WATCH: Surrey-made anti-bullying video urges youth to #BlockEmDontShareEm

“Break the chain by deleting the image and never forwarding – not even to a best friend’

Surrey RCMP on scene of a crash involving a motorized scooter and a car in the intersection of 102 Avenue and City Parkway on Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Photos: Shane MacKichan)
Elderly man sent to hospital after scooter crashes with car in Surrey

Surrey RCMP say it happened at about 8:30 a.m. in the intersection of 102 Avenue and City Parkway

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

A woman boards a transit bus through rear doors, in Vancouver, on Friday, March 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
TransLink slow to reveal crucial details about ransomware attack, says union

Union says company took months to admit what info was stolen, including SIN and bank account details

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read