VICTORIA -- Tourism Vancouver Island and the British Columbia Hotel Association have launched an initiative to welcome Canadian snowbirds to Vancouver Island this winter season.

Tourism Vancouver Island president Anthony Everett says many snowbirds are here already.

“They’ve traditionally come, to a certain degree, but with the border situation the way it is with COVID, they are coming,” Everett says. “So that was one of the reasons why we went this route to educate snowbirds… How to travel responsibly is a big part of our messaging right now.”

More than 100 accommodations have signed on to the campaign, offering one- to five-month long-term stays at their locations up and down the island.

A new website has been launched to offer all the information snowbirds would need. 

B.C. Hotel Association president Ingrid Jarrett says some areas on Vancouver Island had a successful summer, but on average for the province hotels are down 58 per cent from 2019.

“That means we are in a pretty dire situation all around,” says Jarrett. 

Most of the accommodations and hotels on Vancouver Island are small, private businesses, she says. 

“It’s increasingly really difficult going into the fall and winter season,” said Jarrett. “We are really hoping we can curate that demand for the next five months to be able to take away some of the financial burdens and we can keep people employed in the province.” 

Jim Cunningham normally travels to Arizona every year but is now stuck in B.C.’s Interior. 

“I would go there to try and survive freezing to death, that would be my main goal,” says Cunningham. “We like Victoria for a couple of reasons: It is a nice city and we know other people there.”

He said other snowbirds they know have already flocked to Victoria for the winter season. 

Many RV parks on the Island are booked solid, but these hotels have the opportunity to rent spaces for snowbirds travelling with RVs.

“Hotels have options for them, an RV can park on their property and use their services,” he says. “They can go to Port Renfrew area, Sooke area, Sidney or as far north as Campbell River or Port Hardy.”

The campaign aims to assist tourism recovery, while drawing visitors to the region to support businesses. 

“I think it's a win, win, win,” says Jarrett. “If our role can be to support a travel experiment that is safe, healthy and profiles the beauty of the island ... I think it's a great idea.”