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

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Communities like Nakusp are grappling with the challenge of hooking high-speed internet up at individual homes. File photo
‘Last mile’ debate a Gordian knot in Slocan Valley’s fibre-optic cable plans

How do you bring high-speed internet not just to communities, but individual homes?

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

(Betsy Kline/Castlegar News)
Nav Canada says it would never compromise safety at West Kootenay Regional Airport

Submission from Nav Canada regarding potential cuts to the West Kootenay Regional Airport

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Follow public health recommendations, says Interior Health as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Revelstoke. (Image courtesy CDC)
Revelstoke positive COVID cases grows to 29

Interior Health announced a cluster in the community on Nov. 26

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Most Read