British Columbians can make their 2022 camping reservations starting today.
BC Parks’ new online booking system officially launched on Monday and by 9 a.m. almost 16,000 bookings had been made.
If outdoor enthusiasts recall, the old website crashed in May 2020 after it was inundated with requests. The same thing happened in 2021.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman says they had a chance to do something different in response to the many complaints they've heard over the last two years.
"I want people to know, in British Columbia, that we listened. We heard that people were frustrated by it. It wasn’t just the system crashing; it was long waits without knowing how long they’d have to wait to log back in all the time. It was the functionality of the site. It was, frankly, very clunky," Heyman told Glacier Media last week.
After feedback and focus groups, the site has a new look and should make for a more seamless user experience.
"This site should be very stable. We built it so that we have added capacity for times of booking when we know it will be heavy," says Heyman.
There are a few things you should know about the new site:
1. Create an account
Visit the BC Parks sign-in page and create an account. You can do this before bookings open. This allows you to test out the new look and understand how the site works.
You'll be asked for your name, email, address and phone number when signing up for an account.
Once that's done you'll be able to view, modify or cancel a booking. You can change your profile at any time.
2. New waiting room
Similar to when you booked a COVID-19 vaccine, there will be a waiting queue before booking your campsite.
This will allow you to know exactly how long the wait is before you can book. (The old site didn't give an estimated wait time.)
The virtual waiting room will be used when there's high web traffic; the goal is to prevent the system from overloading and provide fair access to the site.
According to ministry staff, the new reservation service will be able to handle high web traffic on popular dates. Expanded call centre services will be available to support customers as needed.
3. Clear cancellation policy
Before paying for your camping reservation, there will now be a clear breakdown of the costs and how much the cancellation fees are. This is a new feature.
Also, if you’re a senior, finding the discount code is easier and more accessible.
4. Add people, vehicle to booking
New to the booking process is the ability to add another person to the reservation. This feature can be used if someone will be at the site before you or if you’re booking the reservation on behalf of someone else.
Like previous camping seasons, reservations can only be made up to two months in advance.
Vehicle information, including licence plate number and model, can also be added to the reservation. (Saves time when checking into a park.)
According to the ministry, people are camping more than ever. Reservations are up 200 per cent in the last 10 years, staff say.
"They’re your parks, they’re part of what makes B.C. so special,” says Heyman, adding people can submit site feedback online. "Get out and enjoy it.”