Family Day move ‘disastrous,’ says Big White official

Family Day is on the move and it’s not something everyone is excited about

The NDP government’s decision to move the Family Day holiday to the third week of February will be a disaster both for the tourism industry and for British Columbians keen on spending time on the slopes over a long weekend, says the executive vice-president of Big White Ski Resort.

B.C. ski resorts are more popular than ever, said Michael J. Ballingall, and aligning B.C.’s family day with the rest of Canada’s simply means more competition for the finite number of rooms at the resort.

“All we’re doing is cramming everyone into one weekend,” said Ballingall. “So you’re just displacing people from B.C., with people who have already booked from America and Ontario.”

B.C. residents, he said, don’t usually plan trips until the fall, so they’re going to miss out on the Family Day vacations at local ski resorts until booking patterns change.

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The second weekend of February, where Family Day has been thus far, will likely be less busy and that means fewer working opportunities for those who are employed at the resort.

In defending the holiday switch, B.C. Premier John Horgan called the decision the right thing to do for businesses, small and large, and for families who may be spread out across the country.

“This gives families an opportunity to schedule and spend more time with loved ones from other provinces,” Horgan said.

Ballingall said that doesn’t ring true. Tourists tend not to drive B.C. highways in the dead of winter for a long weekend visit. They fly — and the flights available will be at a premium given the increase in competition to book.

Tourism Kelowna supported B.C. Family Day staying on the second Monday of February as it created economic benefits for local tourism businesses.

“The staggered holidays gave tourism businesses an additional opportunity to increase visitation and generate revenue,” said a representative of the organization.

“As a result of this change, Kelowna and local tourism businesses will now compete with other destinations for visitors during this weekend. We will factor this change into future destination marketing plans to increase overnight visitation to Kelowna and area.”

The push to have the dates changed was influenced by several fronts. The finance industry complained about Family Day occurring when the Toronto Stock Exchange was open, then working the following Monday when the market is closed. As well, federal employees in B.C. don’t get the day off.

The United B.C. Family Day petition initially launched in 2015 boasted 20,000 signatures as of last year, and was publicly supported by Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.

The switch also had the support of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

An order in council filed by the provincial government earlier this week, cementing the move.

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