British Columbia campground bookings jumped 30% in the first five days of the province’s revamped online reservation system compared with last year, says Parks Minister Barry Penner.

That is a “pretty significant increase year-over-year,” Penner said in an interview with the Victoria Times Colonist.

“I’m certain some of that increase is due to the new features that we are now offering through the reservation system. In particular, you are now able to request a specific campsite within a campground.”

Penner, who used to work as a park ranger on the Lower Mainland, remembers campers who were devoted to certain spots. Some prefer to be next to a creek, hiking trails, near a woodlot, or washrooms and hot showers.

The province also recently moved the overnight rate in British Columbia campgrounds up by as much as $6 a night on April 1, depending on the location. Camping at the most popular spots on Vancouver Island, such as Goldstream Park near the Malahat, or Rathtrevor Beach near Parksville, has gone up to $30 per night.

However, 60% of British Columbia’s park campgrounds still offer campsites for $16 per night or less, Penner said.

There has been little feedback to the new rates, he said. “The new fees have hardly been a deterrent to camping as evidenced by a 30% increase in bookings,” Penner said.

During the first five days of bookings, there were 8,259 reservations for the season, up from 6,327 for the same days last year, Penner said.

British Columbia’s provincial parks have more than 340 campgrounds with 11,000 campsites. Overall attendance rose 5% last year.

Fees were increased to cover escalating operating costs, Penner said. Currently fees cover 40% of the cost of operating the parks system. Taxpayers pay the rest.

British Columbia’s provincial parks fees are 7-50% lower than those found in the private sector or national parks for similar services, he said.