Kitchener-Waterloo

Ontario Parks cracking down on people reselling camping bookings for profit

Ontario Parks is putting the brakes on booking camping sites and reselling their reservations for profit, saying they risk cancellation and penalty fees if caught.

Province also seeks ways to make more campsites available given the high demand

Ontario Parks says anyone booking reservations at a camp site will no longer be allowed to resell them for profit. Photo shows Pinery Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Huron. (Google StreetView)

Ontario Parks is cracking down on people who book camping sites and resell their reservations for profit.

The province doesn't condone reselling reservations. because it's been particularly difficult to book a site, said a spokesperson for Jeff Yurek, minister of environment, conservation and parks.

This year has seen a particular surge in campsite bookings and competition for coveted spots.

"We know that there are instances where individuals are attempting to sell reservations with the intention to make a profit," Chelsea Dolan said in an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo on Thursday evening.

As of Saturday, anyone with reservations won't be allowed to resell them.

"If Ontario Parks becomes aware that anyone has attempted to sell a reservation for profit, for example, if they have listed a reservation on social media or buy and sell websites for resale for profit, the reservation may be cancelled and all applicable penalty fees will apply," said Dolan.

The Ontario Parks website says people who cancel or shorten their stays before arrival are charged a penalty fee of between 10 per cent and 50 per cent of the total value of the cancelled or shortened nights.The percentage penalty is based on length of time the reservation has been held. Anyone whose reservation is cancelled by Ontario Parks for trying to resell it at a profit would receive a partial refund.

Booking a site has become competitive

Would-be campers have flocked to the Ontario Parks website. The provincial parks service tweeted that bookings jumped from 29,504 in the first few weeks of 2020 to 58,475 for the same period this year.

Many have complained of difficulties getting a spot in their desired parks. 

Alex Smith of Guelph told CBC K-W last month that he prepared each morning for the reservation system to open at 7 a.m., but he and his partner, Shoshanah Jacobs, were unable to snag a spot for this year.

Jacobs and Smith thought it was all just bad luck until Jacobs saw an ad for a camping site registration bot that promised to help people get sites they wanted.

An ad on Kijiji listed 20 different camping dates in various provincial parks, and in each case, the cost to book from the bot was more than what people would have paid had they booked directly with Ontario Parks.

The ad has since been taken down.

Dolan said the province will continue to listen to campers and park visitors who have concerns about the system, and Ontario Parks wants "to ensure a fair and transparent reservation system is provided for everyone."

Ontario Parks is also looking for ways to make more campsites available for people "to satisfy the growing demand." 

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