Local RV tour operators Michael and Carla Van Der Kraats say they have been harassed and threatened through social media, their phone and email following a series of articles published by national news sources that feature their business Canadian Camping Adventures.
The articles focus on Canadian Camping Adventures’ practice of working with European travel agencies to book space in highly coveted provincial campsites as well as other activities for European tourists. Their rates are higher than those found when booking through the B.C. government’s Discover Camping website.
Carla said the couple has shut down the company’s Facebook page following posted threats and have been avoiding phone calls and emails in the wake of the articles.
“They said that they’d come see us in person and it wouldn’t end well for us,” she said.
Carla said that the company has also stopped sales for the 2017 season amidst the uncertainty of the situation.
“It’s his (Michael’s) baby, he designed it and we just feel like our life is falling apart,” she said.
Carla expressed concerns that readers were overestimating the size of the company and their market.
“The little bit that we take is nothing,” she said.
Michael said that the company booked around 400 trips per season for the whole of B.C. and Alberta, each featuring approximately 20 nights in campgrounds. Carla added that most of these are private campgrounds not provincial parks and that efforts are made with the European travel agencies they schedule tours to avoid popular long weekends.
“They think that we’re gouging Canadians for their spots on the campgrounds. That is ridiculous,” Michael said.
One of the articles said Canadian Camping Adventures sells reservations to B.C. provincial parks for roughly $70 a night after reserving them for between $18 and $35 a night.
Carla said their rate is between $40 and $80 per night when the entire trip, including hotel rooms, campsites and scheduled activities is divided nightly. She says the mark-up indicated in the national media articles does not reflect their profit on provincial campsite reservations.
Reservations for Shuswap Lake and Herald provincial parks are $32 per site per night.
“It’s not that we just book the campground and say ‘here’s your voucher enjoy yourself.’ They get a whole itinerary booklet and road book. It’s more involved than just booking a campground, making a markup and making myself rich,” Michael said.
Carla added that they design their itineraries to benefit private campgrounds, as well as other tourism-related businesses.
“These businesses need foreign tourists once the long-weekend rush is over,” she added, before going on to say that along with the angry messages from the public, the couple had received solicitations from private campground owners trying to fill their empty spaces.
On the provincial level, NDP Environment Critic George Heyman is criticizing the government regulations that allow private booking of provincial campsites.
“I think we have to find a balance between protecting B.C. campgrounds for B.C. taxpayers; they are public parks after all, and promoting our tourism industry,” Heyman said.
Regulation changes Heyman mentioned included: allowing B.C. families two or three days advanced booking before spaces are released to tour operators; allotting a small number of sites set aside for tourism operators only and checking ID or credit cards at the park entrance to prevent scalping of reservations.
“I don’t blame tourism operators for operating within the rules as they currently do, I just think that it’s up to the government to protect the publicly owned campground for the public,” Heyman said.
“I don’t think that people should take their anger out on the company. I certainly don’t approve of any threats made against tourism operators, I think it’s up to the government to make rules that work for everyone.”