A lot of people want to go camping in NWT parks this summer.

The NWT Parks online reservation system opened at 10 a.m. on April 12 for most parks, with Fred Henne Territorial Park open for reservations on April 13. By 11 a.m on the first day, bookings had generated more than $50,000. By April 16, the most recent day data is available, a total of $172,55 in bookings had been made across all NWT territorial parks.

“About a third of our revenues are obtained during this first week of the reservation system opening,” said Tara Tompkins, manager of parks operations at the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment. “People are very keen on getting their sites right away, and getting excited about summer.”

With good reason. On the first two days alone, park revenue increased 14.6 per cent, from $138,556 in 2016 to $158,901 for the 2017 season.

By midday April 13, 1,458 reservations had been made.

Parks in the Yellowknife area reigned supreme. Fred Henne Territorial Park saw the most, with 587 bookings, Reid Lake Territorial Park was number two with 248 bookings, followed by Prelude Lake Territorial Park with 228 bookings. Fort Providence Territorial Park came in fourth with 99. Sites range from $10 to $32 per night, with most opening on May 12.

Last year, the parks beat records too, reaching a high of 29,158 people staying in NWT campgrounds, the highest number since 2003.

Tompkins said the early booking results bode well for the coming season.

“I think it definitely gives us a forecast that we are going to see greater numbers,” she said.

The department is planning to invest heavily in parks infrastructure in 2017-18, to the tune of $3.8 million.

When last year’s numbers were tallied, Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann stated his department is on the right track.

“The increase in visitors to Northwest Territories Parks over the last two years confirms that our approach to investing in parks infrastructure, training and tourism promotion, is working,” he stated in January.

Tompkins said about 40 per cent of bookings came from the NWT, with about 45 per cent coming from the rest of Canada. The remainder came from international visitors, including many Americans. On the first two days bookings were open, 80 per cent of the page views that came from the U.S. were from California.

Tompkins said the economy might be making camping in the North more attractive for Canadians and Americans.

“I think people are going to be staying closer to home with the American dollar, things like that,” she said.