BC Parks answers questions and dispels myths about Discover Camping

We have received comments and questions in regards to making camping reservations in BC Parks. Below are some answers to these commonly asked questions. As a reminder, the matter of reselling BC Parks reservations is taken very seriously. We investigate every incident that is brought to our attention. If you see any advertisements regarding reselling of camping reservations please contact discover.camping@gov.bc.ca

  1. Are there plans to increase camping inventory?

Where appropriate, BC Parks redevelops existing campgrounds and is sometimes able to add new sites. However, there are no plans to develop new campgrounds at this time.

In terms of adding reservable inventory, at the end of each camping season, the Discover Camping program is reviewed. Each year the number of reservations increase; for example in 2015 we had a 19% increase in reservations compared to 2014. The demand for more reservable sites, combined with feedback from our park users and park operators, inform the amount inventory we add to the reservation system.

  1. Is BC Parks doing anything to address the system of booking two weeks and cancelling with no detrimental effect?

BC Parks has looked into addressing this situation, as all park agencies with a “rolling reservation window” face this same issue. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to eliminate or reduce this practice, or we would have already implemented it. BC Parks monitors the number of shortened stays and in a recent analysis determined that less than one percent of the reservations made had reduced their stay.

The solutions we’ve heard to stop this practice (e.g. increasing the cancellation fees and shortening the allowable length of stay) unfortunately cause other issues in the system. The challenge BC Parks faces is to address the people who are taking advantage of these policies (less than 1%) without over-penalizing the people who legitimately wish to shorten their stay (the other 99%). It is a delicate balance that we strive to achieve through our current policies and fee structure.

  1. Is there a system in place to prevent ‘bots’ from purchasing campsites at the most popular campsites?

There are several mechanisms in place that make it difficult for computer programs to make reservations. For example, all reservation customers must create a profile and “log in” to make a booking. In addition, customers may not have more than one concurrent reservation in their name, and all fees must be prepaid on a valid credit card. All of these requirements serve to make ‘bot’ use difficult and impractical. BC Parks and our Discover Camping service provider have no evidence that this type of activity is taking place.

  1. Where do my reservation fees go?

The reservation service is set up to pay for itself so it is not subsidized by taxpayers. The transaction charge revenue goes to paying for the Discover Camping program.

  1. Are RV companies mass reserving blocks of campsites for their clients?

Commercial operators do not receive preferential treatment to reserve campsites and are not allowed to book blocks of sites. All park users (including commercial operators) have to follow our policies and procedures when booking reservations.  Because commercial operators play an important role in providing tourism services that benefit British Columbians, they are welcome to make reservations on behalf of their clients.

  1. What are some tips for people wanting to book the most popular campsites?

Try to book an arrival date when most campers are leaving (for example, most people depart on a Sunday (or Monday of a long weekend)) or aim for a mid-week stay.

Consider planning your camping trip a little further from an urban centre. Many campgrounds that are a few hours’ drive from a city or town have more spots available for both reservations and first-come, first -served customers.

Many of our most popular parks are open before the May Long weekend or after the Labour Day weekend; making the off-season a great time of year to enjoy our beautiful sites. Here are two other great resources for ways to book a reservation at a more popular campground:

 What steps is BC Parks taking to address the high demand on the reservation system?

BC Parks annually reviews the Discover Camping program to assess where short and long term improvements can be made. We consult with our service provider, other park agencies, our park operators, and feedback we receive from the public and our staff.

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