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Vancouver Island campsites, hotels booking up as people avoid wildfires

Last Updated Jul 22, 2021 at 11:42 am PDT

The British Columbia Legislature is reflected in the waters of Victoria harbour in the early morning in Victoria, B.C. Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Tourism Vancouver Island President Anthony Everett says many campsites and RV parks on the Island are already booked

Many people appear to be rethinking their summer plans as wildfires burn in the B.C. Interior

British Columbians, visitors urged to plan ahead and make sure they are checking in before travelling amid raging fires

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While a growing number of people may be looking toward Vancouver Island for their summer camping trips — rather than the fire-riddled B.C. Interior — a leading tourism official says many may run into trouble if they haven’t booked well in advance.

Saying he’s not surprised many British Columbians are shifting their travel plans, Tourism Vancouver Island President Anthony Everett says many of the campsites and RV parks on the Island are already fully booked.

“It doesn’t surprise me that people would be looking elsewhere for their vacation plans. We knew coming out of the pandemic, or moving through this pandemic, these days people are taking longer trips. If they are planning a trip to the Island, Gulf Islands, or even the Sunshine Coast, they should definitely call ahead and look around for what’s available,” he explained.

“Wildfires will have that effect of moving people. Bookings are getting stronger every day here.”

Everett says certain parts of the Island appear to be more “full” than others, with the west side and areas like Victoria seeing more demand.

“Campsites have been booked for a long time now, so camping’s quite full. I’m even hearing in the north Island accommodations are quite full,” he added. “Everything’s changing, people are travelling now, things are booking up.”

Gone are the days when you could get off a ferry and just find an open spot to stay at, he notes, adding while domestic travel numbers are still a little lower than last year, they’re creeping up.

“It started with a lot of locals — that had been going on for a bit, British Columbians, obviously, Alberta. We’re even seeing some people coming back from Ontario into Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox Valley. All those things are happening with Canadian travellers,” he explained. “What we’re all anticipating and waiting for is really understanding the further implications of the U.S. border opening, and then international travel, because that’s what’s really going to help tourism businesses.”

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Everett notes activity providers, such as those in the sport fishing or whale watching industries, are still struggling. He hopes the resumption of international travel will help that sector.

It’s been a difficult year for the hospitality and tourism industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everett says even before, staffing issues were prevalent, and only made worse by the health crisis.

While many businesses are looking forward to welcoming visitors, he says people shouldn’t be surprised if some shops and services are open for only part of the day or closed altogether some parts of the week.

The B.C. Interior continues to deal with dozens of wildfires, many of which have forced people to leave their homes or prepare to do so in recent weeks.

The hot and dry conditions have only been adding to challenges.

While many communities in the southern Interior are still ready to welcome visitors, a number of local mayors are urging tourists to plan ahead and to ensure they aren’t taking up spaces that might otherwise be needed for evacuees, if possible.