Tourism industry wary of Family Day switch

Holiday doubled occupancy on quiet weekend

While Premier John Horgan has spoken of changing B.C.’s Family Day holiday from second Monday of February to the third to align with other provinces, many in the ski industry want to keep the status quo.

A petition launched in 2015 to change the date has garnered over 22,000 signatures and the support of Green Party leader Andrew Weaver. In February he tabled a bill called the Family Day Amendment Act 2017.

Christopher Nicolson, CEO of the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA), said the creation of the holiday had an immediate impact on all parts of the tourism industry.

“Having a new long weekend jettisoned bookings,” Nicolson said. “It’s more important for some to align with Toronto for holidays but currently it (Family Day) brings revenue and B.C. residents get to participate in outdoor activities.”

Nicolson said the current timing is key because it creates more bookings on what was previously a quieter weekend. If it were to change, he said, it would fall within President’s Week which is already a busy time for tourism in B.C.

He said during consultation for the holiday in 2012 they considered a number of questions.

“How can we generate more money to pay for (provincial) services? How can we build the winter and balance it with summer? How can we allow access without competing with other jurisdictions?”

According to Nicolson the holiday is important to encourage time spent with family and can also introduce new Canadians or new skiers to the slopes and other outdoor winter sports.

Ski areas often provide discounts to B.C. residents on the stat Monday which may not be available if the date changes and residents trying to enjoy the holiday could face longer lines or no booking availability.

The CWSAA and other industry leaders have been working to explain their stance to the new provincial government.

“We respect it’s a new government looking at it all together and respect the government’s needs to see all sides,” Nicolson said. “We’re going to show the value both economically and socially around the province.”

Sun Peaks has certainly benefited from the holiday and offers a 50 per cent discount on lift passes for the day alongside other events and offers.

“Some nights have doubled in occupancy,” said Arlene Schieven, CEO of Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP). “We’re already fully booked on President’s Week; There’s no room.”

“We definitely want it to stay where it is,” she said. “It’s been such a great opportunity for people who don’t ski that often to get involved.”

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