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

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has been named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy for the BC Liberals. (Black Press file photo)
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Previously, Ross was the critic for LNG, Resource Opportunities, and Responsible Development

Red sky in morning: an early-morning sunrise on May 16, 2020, captured just north of Kitimat. (Eric Roy photo)
Clare’s Corner: Hello, darkness, my old friend

Why does the after-work darkness affect you so much more as an adult than as a child?

(Corrado Colombo photo)
Corrado Colombo, with his wife, Lucy. Colombo is from Italy, but met Kitimat born-and-raised Lucy on one of his annual fishing trips to Kitimat in the early 2000s.
In Our Valley: Corrado Colombo

Corrado Colombo never expected that an annual fishing trip to Kitimat would change his life

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

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: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Most Read