Coronavirus: Okanagan hotels preparing to re-open with new protocols

Click to play video: 'Be prepared for all kinds of new protocols at B.C hotels this summer'
Be prepared for all kinds of new protocols at B.C hotels this summer
Be prepared for all kinds of new protocols at B.C hotels this summer – May 26, 2020

It’s an industry that’s said to be among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic: The hotel sector.

“There’s a very somber feeling out there right now,” said Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the B.C. Hotel Association.

According to the association, about 40 per cent of hotels across the province chose to close their doors at the onset of the pandemic, while 60 per cent have remained open.

But the ones which kept their doors open have been experiencing the kind of hotel occupancies never seen before, in many cases in the single digits.

“The situation is dire,” Jarrett told Global News.

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According to the association, up to 40 per cent of the province’s 800 hotels could close permanently if locals don’t help fill the void left by visitors.

“When we look at the capacity for these businesses to survive, we are nearing the end date of them, because we are looking into the third month of no revenue or absolutely minimal revenue,” Jarrett said.

At the Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos, the impact has been significant.

“In April we were down 80 per cent,” said Daniel Bibby, the resort’s executive director and general manager. “It’s been challenging for all of us.”

Staff at Spirit Ridge are now working on a recovery plan hoping for an uptick in visits by British Columbians when phase three of the province’s economic re-opening strategy starts in June and domestic travel restrictions are eased.

“We’ve been working on a recovery campaign and trying to figure out what will help people start to travel again,” Bibby said. “The key priority of course is the safety and security of our guests and colleagues, so we’ve been really focused on that.”

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“We’re a real destination, a summer destination specifically,” Bibby said. “We are all kind of counting on at least a bit of a rebound for July and August.”

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To help with the industry’s recovery efforts, the B.C. Hotel Association is working with government agencies to develop health and safety protocols that all hotels with have to follow.

“We need to make sure that our consumer confidence is lifted where people feel safe to travel, Jarrett said. “And they know our industry has their health and safety in hand.”

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While phase three hotel protocols have not yet been released, they will centre around enhanced cleaning standards, social distancing guidelines and changes to housekeeping.

The association said it’s quite possible that housekeeping services will not be allowed while a guest is occupying a room.

In addition, there will likely be a certain amount of time that a room will have to sit empty before housekeeping is allowed in following a guest’s departure.

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That operational change may result in later check-in times at some hotels.

Touchless check-ins and check-outs could also be part of the new protocols.

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“As an industry, we’re really anxious to do this right, do it right the first time,” Jarrett said. “None of us can afford not to do it right the first time.”

At Spirit Ridge, many new protocols are already in place, including staff wearing personal protective equipment.

“I know that the hotels, certainly in our community here in Osoyoos and communities up and down the Okanagan Valley, have taken this very, very seriously. We have all elevated our protocols to a new standard,” Bibby said.

Hoteliers are hoping the new standards make the difference in people feeling safe to travel once again.

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“We are all kind of counting on at least a bit of a rebound for July and August,” Bibby said.

The provincial government has not yet announced when in June phase three will begin.

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