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B.C. tour companies accused of scalping provincial campsites

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When tickets for The Tragically Hip’s final tour were scooped up, appearing on resale sites minutes later, fans were outraged. But as it turns out, Canada could have a similar problem with provincial campsites.

These sites can be booked through a website reservation service months in advance, but many campers have reported that they’re fully booked in a matter of minutes.

Some blame tour companies like Canadian Camping Adventures, which builds outdoor adventure packages catered to foreign travellers. The Salmon Arm-based company has been accused of booking a large number of campsites in B.C. provincial parks, leaving local campers out of luck.

“I do realize the frustration, it’s just, it’s not us making this happen,” Michael Van der Kraats, part owner of Canadian Camping Adventures, told CBC News. He says their company books sites online the same way everyone else does. If they can’t book them at one location, they’ll go somewhere else.

“We work with private campgrounds, we work with national parks, provincial parks, we do it like everybody else…No privileges, no blocks. I mean we’re just a small company.”

But as NDP environment critic George Hayman points out, they’re still making a profit from these sites, and there’s lots of private places they can work with. He’s calling for changes so that the reservation system favours families.

“I think to disadvantage British Columbian families or any family by essentially commercializing our public parks is just wrong,” he told CBC.

Although some might think reserving a campsite is relatively simple, seasoned campers know just how competitive it can be. Campgrounds like Kelowna’s Bear Creek were booked for the Canada Day long weekend as soon as they became available a full 90 days prior.

But what’s frustrating campers even more is when they see campsites with reserved signs sitting unused for days. According to reports, that was the case at Coldstream Provincial Park Campground earlier this month.

Environment minister Mary Polak, who’s in charge of the province’s more than 5,000 reservable campsites, told CTV News that 75 percent of the province’s campers are from B.C. She said the bigger issue is the growing demand.

“The amount that are coming from tour operators, that’s less than one percent of our reservations. The real challenge is just that we have very, very few campsites available.”

As always, the province will be reviewing the reservation system at the end of the season. In the meantime, they recommend booking as soon as possible for the rest of the summer—if it’s not already too late.

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