Alberta Camping

With Alberta offloading the management of a number of campgrounds, what new management will look like in the Pincher Creek region remains to be seen. PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES

Bob Cameron, a retired management consultant and Rocky View County (Alberta) Councillor, made a presentation to the town council asking them to consider the benefits of assuming management of campgrounds from the province and creating a partnership, during the Dec. 14 council meeting, according to the Pincher Creek Echo.

Cameron said he has visited Pincher Creek frequently over the past 40 years, primarily for fly fishing, and the province’s plans to offload campground management could be an opportunity for municipalities.

“The reason I volunteered to do this is I’d like to pass the same opportunities on to my grandchildren,” said Cameron. “What (the province) wants to do is hand out some of the campgrounds. What I’d like to see happen is people that I think would be good operators take them over. The people that are most concerned about seeing any deterioration in the quality of campgrounds are very happy if municipalities or other governments will partner with the province, and I’m one of those people.”

Closures are expected at some provincial recreation areas, however, none are planned within the Pincher Creek region.

Cameron said tourism is a huge industry in Canada, and a large cut of that is generated in Alberta.

“Tourism in Canada annually generates about $36-billion in revenue, and Alberta generates approximately $9-billion. That’s 25%, and that’s a lot,” he said. “My modest research shows that they’re not counting all of it, so it’s probably higher than that. It can be made much higher than it is right now if we make a few improvements.”

The province is planning to let go of campgrounds within the Oldman River Provincial Recreation Area, which Cameron said could be an opportunity to make improvements and increase occupancy.

“The two (campgrounds) that are there are Cottonwood and Castleview. Both of them can really stand to be run better,” said Cameron. “I have a lot of experience at both spots, and when the provincial software says they’re filled, they’re not.”

He advocated for a focus on occupancy rather than revenue.

“What we’re trying to do is maximize the occupancy of the campgrounds—not trying to maximize revenue from reservations. That’s a big difference,” he said. “If you’re running a business in Pincher Creek, you want as many people inside the campground as possible.”

Cameron’s cited numbers indicated that the province estimates $7,200 in revenue per day for fully occupied campgrounds.

Cameron said the province projects revenues for 100-day-long seasons but said Pincher Creek’s climate would allow longer camping seasons.

“If you wanted, you could open for 120 or 140 days, and that would increase the revenue streams by a lot. You can see the amount of money available in running the campgrounds.”

He said there are fallbacks to the online reservation system that the province operates, and changing it could result in more revenue at campgrounds.

“The (electronic) reservation system frequently crashes, it shows campgrounds are full when they are not, and it’s not comprehensive. You’ve got about seven or eight campsites that I know of that aren’t included in the system at all,” said Cameron. “In other words, they’re invisible to people who want to rent them.”

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