If Canadian camping is to stage a comeback, it may well start with outings such as Learn to Camp.
According to a report by the Globe and Mail, dozens of the 9,000-plus neophytes who have tried Ontario Parks’ four-year-old program gush about their experiences in YouTube videos and blog posts. “Thanks to your program,” the Sethi family of Brampton, Ont., writes, “we are now hooked on camping for life.”
Campsite supporters must relish this enthusiasm. The Canadian Camping and RV Council is slated to release a report on the state of the industry in March, but recent statistics show steady decline. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of overnight camping stays in Ontario’s provincial parks fell by 10%, while a 2010 study from Tourism Quebec found that campsite occupancy in that province fell by 8.7% between the summers of 2006 and 2009. (The dip would have been more dramatic if not for RV use, which saw a 6.9% gain. Tenting, however, plunged by 34%.)
National park attendance is indicative of camping stays, says Ed Jager, Parks Canada’s director of visitor experience, and while the federal agency saw a 4% increase in overall visitation from 2009 to 2014, this failed to keep up with Canada’s population growth. It’s the same story south of the border, where overnight camping stays with the U.S. National Park Service fell to 7.91 million in 2013 from 9.2 million in 1998.