Family Day move restricts B.C. residents from booking into ski resort

The holiday, that now aligns with the U.S., Alberta and Ontario is keeping B.C. residents out of accommodation

Big White Ski Resort is preparing for an overwhelmingly busy Family Day weekend.

Last year, before the provincial holiday was moved back a week to align it with the rest of the country, Michael J. Ballingall senior vice-president of Big White Ski Resort said resort traffic was spread over two weeks.

Now everyone is focused on the same weekend and it’s squeezing out locals.

More than half of the resort has been booked by Americans and the rest by out of province visitors, not giving the residents of B.C. a chance to stay at the resort for their long-weekend.

“All they did was move B.C. to a day that is busier than New Year’s Eve or Christmas on the mountain,” said Michael J. Ballingall.

“People are used to doing this on Family Day long-weekend, now it’s moved for the first time. On top of that, the biggest problem this year is people from B.C., who started (calling) in late November, December and January to book, we couldn’t accommodate them. There’s no room.”

Ballingall says that the resort has already lost between $700,000 to $800,000 from the holiday being moved.

“The big deal is that it worked really well when the days were separated from a resort perspective. People were able to travel within province and enjoy a non-stressful Family Day long-weekend.”

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In defending the holiday switch last year, 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.

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.

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“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.

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