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

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

Jenn and Josh McLafferty, Owners of Monashee Spirits, which distills a variety of vodka, gin, brandy, whiskey and liqueurs. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
UPDATE: Three more Revelstoke businesses close due to COVID-19 exposure

Ray’s Butcher shop, Monashee Distillery and La Baguette each had a staff member test positive

The angel tree is now up at CIBC. Pick up a tag and buy a gift for a child this holiday season. (Photo via Facebook/Amanda Cole)
Give a gift to someone in need in Revelstoke

CIBC and Community Connections angel tree is now up

Letter to the editor.
LETTER: New signs not a good use of RMI money

There are other more pressing things we need in Revelstoke

BC Transit is replacing older diesel buses in Revelstoke and the Shuswap with new light-duty gasoline buses. (Submitted/BC Transit)
BC Transit replacing buses in Revelstoke and Shuswap

The new light-duty buses will run on gasoline, replacing older diesel buses

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Garage in Kelowna burns to the ground, blaze deemed suspicious

Fire crews responded to the scene just after 4:30 p.m.

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

(Ty Hainsworth / Facebook)
No injuries after fire rips through South Okanagan fruit stand

A fruit stand caught fire Tuesday afternoon, closing Highway 97 for two hours

Damien Smith, with father Thomas Smith, is “frozen” with joy as he watches a special message Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recorded for Damien’s 9th birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy celebrates 9th birthday with family, community and Ryan Reynolds

People from around the world send birthday cards showing young Canoe resident he’s not alone

A major reconstruction project on 32nd Avenue is nearing completion and the road is now re-opened to traffic between 33rd Street and 35th Street. (City of Vernon photo)
ROAD REPORT: More roundabouts coming to North Okanagan

New intersection lights up Dec. 13, 30th Street paving delayed, PV Road completed in Vernon

In this handout photo provided by the Philippine Red Cross, families stay at a temporary evacuation center at Catanduanes province, eastern Philippines, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, as Typhoon Goni hits the country. Families living near coastal towns have moved to evacuation centers as the strong typhoon makes landfall. (Philippine Red Cross via AP)
Okanagan community group organizes fundraiser for typhoon-hit Philippines

Over two million people have been affected by flooding, with about 500,000 forced to leave homes

Most Read