Alberta Parks changes campsite reservation system to provide equal access

Reserved Camping: The Lake Louise Campground sits vacant until the busy summer season on a snowy Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Earlier in the month, Alberta Parks made several changes to its camping reservation system to better manage the influx of bookings they have been experiencing over the last few years. Anyone hoping to book a campsite in Alberta can now only book up to 90 days in advance for tent camping, and up to 180 days in advance for comfort or group camping, with a maximum booking of 10 consecutive days. (Photo by Livia Hartley/The Press)

Campers should anticipate changes when it comes to booking a campsite this year in Alberta, with Alberta Parks announcing alterations to their camping reservation system earlier this month.

Starting Jan. 11, 2022, anyone hoping to book a campsite in Alberta can now only book up to 90 days in advance for tent camping, and up to 180 days in advance for comfort camping or group camping – rather than the entire season being available for booking all at once. Alberta Parks has also limited the total number of consecutive bookable days at a campsite from 16 to 10 before requiring a new reservation to be made.

These changes come as Alberta Parks grapples with the spike in active campers in the last few years, which has increased demand for provincial camping spots and created some challenges with the online booking process.

“We’re hoping to alleviate the pressure of having so many users booking online at the same time,” says Bridget Burgess, communications advisor for Alberta Environment and Parks.

“We find that based on the feedback that we’ve received from Albertans that this has been a source of frustration in the past. With every campsite being available online on the same day and everyone being online at the same time – it causes a lot of strain on the system. By spreading it out and offering the availability on different days we’re hoping to make that reservation process a lot smoother, and to alleviate some of the technical issues that are caused by that pressure on the system,” she says.

According to Burgess, the Alberta Parks reservation system has experienced a 167 per cent increase in reservations over the last two years alone, likely due to the pandemic causing people to seek out safe outdoor activities to do within their own province.

“With more Albertans than ever before seeking to explore our provincial parks, and to experience camping in our parks, our priority is to create fair opportunities and promote equal access,” says Burgess.

According to data collected by Alberta Parks, the number of campers booking more than 10 consecutive nights increased by over 150 per cent last year. However, almost 50 per cent of those reservations were later changed, and 27 per cent of those who booked 16 consecutive nights canceled the reservation entirely.

“By reducing the number of consecutive bookable nights to 10 and limiting the advanced booking to 90 or 180 days, what we’re hoping to do is to reduce hoarding, future cancellations, over-booking and no shows,” says Burgess.

In addition to the changes made to the booking system, Alberta Parks has also launched camping reservations a month earlier this year and introduced a queue system on their website to manage the number of users that are accessing the website at a time.

“Limiting that number of users is going to allow us to see how the system is performing and hopefully reduce technical issues during peak times as we get closer to the summer months,” says Burgess.

According to Alberta Parks, the recent changes and technical improvements have been showing signs of success, and campers appear to be open-minded about the changes.

“In the camping community, I would say that it’s a positive change,” says Marcel Lussier, a seasoned camper who camps frequently in the province with his family.

“It keeps campers on their toes to make sure that they’ve booked 90 or 180 days in advance. I personally always plan in advance, and it can be hard when you’re trying to book for a weekend in July or August, but I do think this new system will be beneficial instead of having an open-season free-for-all,” he says.

With more Albertans than ever before seeking to explore our provincial parks and to experience camping in our parks, our priority is to create fair opportunities and promote equal access. – Bridget Burgess

Alberta Parks says that while campers may experience some challenges in adjusting to a new system, they will continue to make improvements based on the feedback they collect.

“We’re hopeful that Albertans are going to respond positively to these changes and that it’s going to make it easier and more accessible for people to access camping this season,” says Burgess.

“Our advice to campers is just to look at the website and make note of when our booking windows are going to open in order to have the best possible chance of securing an in-demand campsite. There are still going to be a lot of folks that are hoping to get outside and explore during this camping season, so we encourage people to spend time planning and to feel free to venture to new areas of the province as well.”

About Livia Hartley 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Livia Hartley is working as a writer for The Press during the 2021-22 academic year.