A British Columbia campground operator welcomes new recommendations to improve and support his industry.
But Joseph Dubois is also wondering about the timing of the announcement as the industry faces several short- and long-term challenges, starting with high gas prices and the weather.
“It is fantastic,” said Dubois, who owns and operates Summerland Campground and RV Park in Trout Creek, when commenting on the report released last week. Dubois also sits on the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association board.
The report, prepared by a joint industry/government working group, includes 15 recommendations to create, maintain and expand recreational vehicle park development in British Columbia.
“To remain competitive, B.C. needs a variety of overnight accommodations for our visitors,” said Stan Hagen, minister for tourism, sport and the arts.
“With our spectacular natural environment and diverse outdoor recreation activities, B.C. is the ideal destination for camping and RVing. This report is the first step in preparing British Columbia to become the leader in this growing tourism sector.”
The report points to the loss of overnight RV sites.
“Over the past three years, the number of private overnight RV sites for rent has declined as campgrounds/RV parks have closed or changed use to permanent site rentals,” said Chris Bower, president of the B.C. Lodging and Campgrounds Association. “The report recognizes the change in land use, and its future impact on tourism, and sets out a number of solutions that our association is excited to look into further.”
Dubois said this trend was “inevitable” as developers have discovered the region.
“This region is finally coming into its own,” he said. “It has now found itself.”
Regional campgrounds now face pressure from developers wanting to build more luxurious accommodations. And while not all of those proposals have gone forward, the demand for land is not going away.
This development has direct consequences for operators like Dubois.
“It is a seller’s market (for camping and RVing),” he said.
This market dynamic was one of the regions why Dubois and his family purchased the campground two years ago.
“It is supply and demand economics,” he said. “Regardless of the pricing, regardless of the gas prices and the economic situation, camping in the summer for a young family is still an affordable getaway.”
But this alone does not necessarily guarantee success. That is why Dubois added several features not found in campgrounds of yesteryears. They include a swimming pool, playground and volleyball nets, wireless Internet access and movie nights that will give parents and their children some breathing room.
Dubois also added some features to attract “more discerning, more family-oriented people.”
They include a strict 11 p.m. curfew and an electronic gate that locks down between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. to eliminate vehicle traffic. People can leave, but will not be able to re-enter during that period.
Dubois believes that these features will give him a competitive advantage.
Some things though are outside of his control. That includes among others the price of gas – which is spiking – and the weather – which has been unseasonably cold.
Dubois said bookings for this summer are behind the pace of last year. Some weeks in July and August are fully booked while others are wide open.
“I’m sure we will be fully booked, but (travelers) are waiting on the gas prices and what the weather will do,” he said.
Dubois, though, remains confident about the long-term prospects of his business and tourism generally.
“I’m very positive about this whole region, both from a personal and professional perspective.”