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Nova Scotia campgrounds gearing up for another season of solid bookings amid COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia campground booking system overwhelmed on opening day' Nova Scotia campground booking system overwhelmed on opening day
WATCH: It appears Nova Scotians are getting ready in a big way to go camping. The province opened up bookings for the 2021 season at provincial campgrounds Tuesday morning and it was met with a surge in demand. Alexa MacLean reports – Apr 6, 2021

The saltwater and fresh air beckoned enough Nova Scotians to the shores of Norse Cove Camping that the couple who runs the private campground say they were able to survive the 2020 season.

“It’s difficult to put a dollar value to it, but from paying the bills and keeping the financial wolves from the door, that absolutely saved us,” said Werner Venter, co-owner of Norse Cove Camping.

Read more: Provincial parks in Nova Scotia reopen next week with COVID-19 guidelines (June 12, 2020)

Venter and his partner were just a few years into opening their Eastern Shore camping doors when the pandemic ground their bookings to a halt.

“Initially, we thought it was a bit of a disaster because a lot of our clientele comes from out of the province and from Europe and the United States,” he said.

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“So, with the borders closing, we kind of lost 85 per cent of our clientele and that’s a big hit for us.”

Werner Venter and his partner own and operate Norse Cove Camping on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Typically, provincial campground bookings open in April for Nova Scotia. In 2020, bookings didn’t open until the first week of June because of COVID-19. Private campgrounds also got the green light to open with public health restrictions in June.

Venter says that delayed opening saw enough of a surge in Nova Scotians booking at Norse Cove to keep them afloat.

He anticipates that local support will continue into the 2021 season.

“Just judging by our booking page on our website, it looks like the Nova Scotians are definitely staying in their own province again,” he said.

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On the provincial campground front, a Global Halifax Facebook post asked people what their experience was like with trying to secure a site on opening day.

The answers were mixed with some people saying they had no trouble and others saying they couldn’t get through.

“I was in right away and it didn’t crash when I was there, It worked a lot better than I thought it would,” Tracy MacNeil wrote.

Others weren’t as successful.

“This system is a nightmare. Got logged in at 9 am with 2500 ahead of me. All weekends gone by the time I got through,” Heather Voegeli wrote.

Sandra Fraser, a parks promotion and development officer with the province, tells Global News the site’s virtual waiting room had 4,000 people waiting to book at 9 a.m.

By 1 p.m., 7,500 reservations had been made.

Fraser says only six out of 20 parks were opened for reservations Tuesday, and more parks will be opened throughout the week for bookings. While weekends and long weekend spots were snapped up quickly, she notes there are still some availability for weekdays and the shoulder seasons.

“If anyone was disappointed in not finding a site today, maybe expand and look at some different parks over the next couple of days when sites come up,” she said.

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Venter says he’s not surprised by the ongoing surge in demand for outdoor activities and he encourages all Nova Scotians to make their plans early on in the season.

— With a file from Rebecca Lau

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