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Coronavirus means some Alberta hotels close; changes for those still open

COVID-19 concerns close major Alberta hotels; big changes at those still open
WATCH: The novel coronavirus pandemic is impacting Alberta hotels in a big way. The massive drop in people traveling means some well-known hotels have temporarily closed, while those that remain open are scaling back operations and laying off staff. Gil Tucker reports.

The massive drop in travellers because of the COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on Alberta hotels.

Some of the province’s most historic hotels, like the Palliser in Calgary and the Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton, have temporarily closed their doors.

Other Calgary closures include the Westin and the Sheraton Suites Eau Claire.

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Calgary hotels that remain open are taking several steps to protect guests and staff.

“During the check-in period, we ask everybody where they’ve been, where they’ve traveled to,” the Hyatt Regency’s director of sales and marketing, John Johnson, said. “(We ask about) any indication of illness, what those symptoms might be.”

Hotels are spacing out guests as much as they can, putting them on different floors and at opposite ends of hallways.

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“We have staggered the rooms that guests are in so we can be conscious of social distancing and ensuring we’re maintaining that at all times,” Johnson said.

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“We’ve reduced out operations significantly: we no longer have a spa open, all of our restaurants have been closed.”

Hotels are providing basic food service, making specially packaged simple meals available through the front desk.

“We have a limited grab-and-go menu,” Hotel Arts’ director of operations Werna Boek said. “Nobody is congregating in any one space for meals: it’s all grab-and-go, and up to the guest rooms.”

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Guests are welcome to order in food but they’re often required to meet the delivery person at the main lobby doors.

“We’ve limited access to the building everywhere,” Johnson said. “So only guests are able to have access.”

Rooms that would normally be taken by vacationers and business travelers are now occupied by people traveling because of the pandemic.

“Some of the guests that we are seeing coming through here are coming to visit friends and family that might be in quarantine,” Boek said. “(People) that might require deliveries, that may not be able to leave their homes.”

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Hotels are operating with very low occupancy rates, on many nights well below 10 per cent.

“In 22 years of being in the hospitality business, I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Johnson said. “We have had to let go a significant amount of our colleagues.”

Hotels still operating are hoping to do so as long as possible.

“If we can maintain a minimum occupancy level, then we can keep our doors open,” Boek said. “We can keep some staff working.”