The province says it is unlikely that the record-breaking number of individuals registering for campsites online this week was the result of robot interference.
When Manitoba’s campsite booking system opened at 7 a.m. Monday, within seconds the site was swamped with 12,825 individuals vying for tickets that would place them in line to book a campsite. The site experienced similar numbers during their staggered registration times throughout the rest of the week.
One year ago, that number was only 2,800.
David Pries of Mitchell says he was among the tens of thousands of Manitobans who logged on to try and grab a campsite this past week and, like many, did not get exactly what he wanted.
Pries and his wife had both been ready at their computers Wednesday morning to attempt to book a site in Whiteshell Provincial Park. At 7 a.m. on the dot, he says they both clicked the ‘get a ticket’ button.
“We found it really interesting and somewhat frustrating as well,” he details. “My page, which took me about five seconds longer to load than my wife, put me in position 28,000 whereas Sierra was in position 20,000, even though we were only a few seconds apart.”
With such a long line in front of them, Pries says they did not get the specific site or dates they were looking for, but they still landed a reservation in the same campground.
“I know that pretty much everyone whom I’ve talked to didn’t get what they were hoping for and had to be flexible so I’m just happy that we ended up finding something that would work,” he comments, “for a lot of us, camping is just a really big part of our summer.”
Experiences like Pries’ have caused some to question the security of the government platform. Considering the website’s extreme busyness throughout the week, some have wondered whether specially designed bots were also in the fray, snapping up sites to be resold privately. Similar conversations have been happening across Ontario in recent days.
Pries says he personally does not have a strong opinion on the subject.
“I know it is possible, and I don’t think it is far-fetched, but I don’t have a reason to believe there was,” he remarks. “If there was though, I am not surprised.”
While not altogether impossible, a provincial spokesperson says that kind of tampering is highly unlikely.
“We are not aware of issues with non-campers using computer software or bots to buy up sites, but there are safeguards in place to ensure this does not happen.”
A statement issued to Steinbach Online emphasized that campsite reservations are largely non-transferable and so would be difficult to resell. "The only time a reservation can be transferred is during the booking process, it can be transferred to another 'owner' before you check out. However, to do that you need the other camper's account information."
Furthermore, as a Manitoba Parks policy, the name on the reservation must be the permit holder who checks in and occupies the site.
It appears the massive throngs of people itching to camp are more indicative of an increasing desire to get outdoors than any kind of dubious software.