Pent-up demand leaves Sask. tourist destinations nearly fully booked

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Sask. tourist destinations almost booked: industry rep
WATCH: Saskatchewan is reopening, but those hoping to go camping or kayaking may have already missed the boat – Jun 27, 2021

If you’re hoping to take a summer vacation in Saskatchewan this year, you may be out of luck.

According to a government spokesperson and hospitality industry representative, many camping sites and tourist destinations are either fully booked or close to being fully booked.

“For July already we are trending about 80 per cent occupancy (for camping sites),” said Robin Campese, the director of the provincial government’s visitor experiences.

Read more: Planning to travel this summer? Here’s what you should know

She added the first couple weeks of August are more than 70 per cent booked.

Jim Bence, the CEO of Hospitality Saskatchewan, a group representing many hotel owners, said they’re getting interest like they’ve “never seen before” from people in Saskatchewan wanting to see other Saskatchewan attractions.

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They both told Global News it’s a symptom of pent-up demand since public health restrictions kept many people home since last summer.

Campese said the government’s booking website saw nearly twice as many requests for campsites as soon as the booking window opened in April.

“It’s generally around 20,000. And we saw over 40,000 reservations during the launch period,” she said.

Read more: Tourism sector won’t recover until 2024: Tourism Saskatoon CEO

Two hotel managers told Global News they are happy to see the return of guests and said the number of phone calls they’ve received jumped after Premier Scott Moe announced the government would lift all COVID-19 restrictions on July 11.

“That really opened the floodgates when it came to the bookings for the summer,” said David Wood, the general manager of the Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa, in Moose Jaw.

“Right now, the phones are ringing… every day, (calling) for August and July.”

He predicted the hotel’s rooms and spa will be fully booked in the next couple of weeks.

He said the staff is pushing to prepare for July 11.

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“I’m not going to kid you. It’s almost like reopening a hotel,” he said, speaking over Zoom from Moose Jaw.

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatchewan tourism hoping for near-normal summer as restrictions set to lift

He said a lot of things will change on July 11, though he added the hotel will have some health guidelines in place, like asking guests to consider wearing a mask.

He said he had hired more than half of the staff back already and thinks it’s possible he will be hiring more in a matter of weeks.

Ryan Danberg, the managing partner of Elk Ridges Resort near Prince Albert National Park, said his motto for reopening is “adapt and change.”

“Every week something was changing and you have to adapt to adapt as an organization,” he told Global News.

Everyone interviewed said the vast majority of their guests were from the province.

“Staycations are a new trend,” Danberg said.

“And my advice to (people wanting to take one) would be, get a plan in place and get a booking.”

Though it looks like people golfing or perhaps relaxing by a pool will soon surround them, Wood and Danberg both said they won’t get to relax until 2022.

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“Irrespective of which part of the sector you’re involved in, recovery is going to take time,” Bence said.

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