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93% of Vancouver hotel rooms were empty last weekend, says industry leader

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Hotels in cities and rural areas are struggling, according to an industry leader, with occupancy rates around the province hovering somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent.

BC Hotel Association president Ingrid Jarrett says the Okanagan and parts of Vancouver Island such as Tofino are seeing strong demand, but urban and remote locations are struggling.

B.C. coronavirus curve is trending in the wrong direction
B.C. coronavirus curve is trending in the wrong direction

Vancouver hotels had a seven per cent occupancy rate last weekend, according to Jarrett.

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“I just can’t even imagine anything to be more severe than what our industry is currently enduring,” she said.

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“It’s heartbreaking.”

Read more: ‘Many businesses are in dire straits’: B.C. tourism sector banks on summer of staycations

Jarett says hotels across the province are adhering to COVID-19 safety guidelines, and guests have to do their part by maintaining social distance.

“When we have groups of people coming together and they’re not adhering to those protocols, then it impacts the business itself,” she said.

Read more: B.C. restaurants tighten guidelines amid new spike in COVID-19 cases

“Physical distancing is currently imperative and that personal responsibility cannot be overlooked.”

With a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the province is considering new restrictions on certain sectors, including hotels, rental properties and houseboats.

Jarrett says she is not sure about any changes to guidelines around hotels, but says the industry is “completely aligned” with government and public health officials.

Read more: Coronavirus: Tourism sector asks B.C. government for $680M stimulus package

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She also applauds a proposed $650-million recovery stimulus package to help the ailing tourism sector, saying the low occupancy numbers highlight the need for government support.

“We were all hoping we could save our summer,” she said.

“We’re now in the third week of July. We are not seeing the numbers to indicate that our industry is going to survive.”

— With files from Richard Zussman