On the first long weekend of the summer season, campers are raising concerns that busy sites are being bought up by tour companies, effectively shutting out locals.
“You shouldn’t have to put a value on this. We have it, why not just show everyone what we have, and let them come, but without putting a profit on it?” said Joe Evangelista.
His Surrey family got a coveted spot at Porteau Cove Provincial Park for this weekend three months ago. But many other people weren’t so lucky.
The latest controversy has arisen from reports of companies buying camping tickets in bulk, and reselling them to European campers. The Salmon Arm-based company Canadian Camping Adventures booked 300 nights for international visitors – campsites which cost between 18 and 35 dollars – before reselling for roughly 70 bucks a night as part of a tour package.
Canadian Camping Adventures co-owner Michael Van Der Kraats says he’s received a torrent of nasty emails and social media criticism since his company’s practices became public. But he says he isn’t given any advantages in purchasing tickets, and defended his business model.
“Every tour operator that is selling a hotel is profiting from it. I don’t see the issue. Why I am allowed to make money from selling hotels, and why I am not allowed to make money on selling campgrounds?” he asks.
NDP environment critic George Heyman says a shadow economy is slowly dominating the public parks system, and the government needs to step in. He says possible solutions would be to make park goers prove they were the same people who purchased tickets, or to set aside a period of time ahead of booking where only families can purchase tickets.
“Life’s been getting increasingly unaffordable for families under Christy Clark, and now one of the last bastions of affordable family vacations is under attack,” said Heyman.
“These are public parks. They’re owned by British Columbians. This is increasing privatization by this government. There’s simple measures that could be taken to prevent this, and this government does not seem to care.”