Canadian snowbirds flock west as winter approaches, but space is limited


At this time of year, the spaces at the Oceanside RV Resort in Saanichton would normally start to empty.But the year-round Vancouver Island RV park is experiencing an off-season boom unlike anything that has happened before.

Not only are the 183 spaces reserved, but over 100 people are on a waiting list to enter.

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The reason: With the US border closed due to COVID-19, Canadian snowbirds are flocking as far southwest as possible, hoping to escape next winter.

Karen Stevens and her husband arrived in Oceanside around the same time last year and were planning to head south in April. When COVID hit, they extended their stay, and at the end of the summer, they were able to extend it again.

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Canadian snowbirds flock to British Columbia this winter

Canadian snowbirds flock to British Columbia this winter

“Things are tight, this place suddenly started to fill up more and more – it was empty when COVID was really in its darkest days,” she said.

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“We had to beg and crawl again – with good success.”

Stevens and her husband Kirby describe themselves as “lucky” to have landed a spot in the park and estimated that around half of those who stay there would normally be on the road in the United States at this point.

“There is certainly a lot of uncertainty,” Oceanside director Samantha Lenz told Global News.

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“People are trying to make sure they have a place to live, because people are full time in their RVs so not having a house where you know you are safe and trying to get a reservation. – they are rare now. ”

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While many of Oceanside’s guests come from British Columbia and Alberta, Lenz said others have come from as far away as Ontario and Quebec.

Oceanside is just one of many coastal BC RV parks running out of space, said Joss Penny of the BC Lodging and Campground Association.

“We have these last minute folks who haven’t made any plans, who expect the border to be open and expect to continue migrating to the United States, wanting places to stay,” did he declare.

“That’s what created the pressure.”

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In response to this growing demand, the British Columbia Hotel Association has launched a pilot project in partnership with Tourism Vancouver Island that could help connect snowbirds to alternatives to the traditional RV park.

“We have launched an appeal to accommodation providers of all kinds, including motels, hotels, hotel complexes, inns”, declared the president and CEO of the association, Ingrid Jarret.

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The idea could see anything from snowbirds reserving a traditional room to hotels offering parking, electricity and other amenities for an RV during the winter, she said.

Jarrett thinks the concept could be a win-win, helping snowbirds in dire need of accommodations, while providing a much needed boost to the region’s struggling tourism sector.

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“Our intention is to cover the whole province,” she said. “I think this reconciliation of demand and this new generation of demand could serve us well if we get it right the first time.”

In the meantime, Kirby and Karen are going to bed for a winter in the Victoria area with their new puppy, but are hoping they can return to the United States next May.

“We’ll get there eventually,” Kevin said.

“But we’re just going to go with the flow, so to speak.

– With files from Kylie Stanton

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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