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Coronavirus: Big White Ski Resort pegs financial losses in millions due to pandemic measures

Click to play video: 'Big White Losses' Big White Losses
Big White Losses – Jan 23, 2021

Big White Ski Resort says its finances continue to tumble downhill during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This week, the resort reported millions of dollars in lost revenue amid health restrictions and travel advisories.

In December, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry repeatedly discouraged non-essential travel, citing health concerns.

Then in early January, the province announced that its order regarding social gathering restrictions was being extended until early February.

Read more: B.C.’s COVID-19 social gathering restrictions to be extended until Feb. 5, 2021

All told, Big White Ski Resort and Big White Central Reservations Ltd., have cancelled $7.3 million in lift ticket and accommodation bookings.

However, Big White officials believe that figure to be much higher, as it doesn’t include revenue lost from other on-mountain businesses, such as food and beverage, equipment rental, ski and snowboard school and private events.

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“When the provincial health officer clearly states ‘Avoid all non-essential travel,’ then the subject is not debatable in cancelling reservations for those who live outside our local area. Even if it results in a substantial financial hit,” says Peter Plimmer, president and CEO of Big White Ski Resort.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Big White cancels reservations amid COVID-19 cluster' Coronavirus: Big White cancels reservations amid COVID-19 cluster
Coronavirus: Big White cancels reservations amid COVID-19 cluster – Dec 18, 2020

The message, it seems, has been heard loud and clear.

On Jan. 21, occupancy at the mountain resort was at just 14.7 per cent – a far cry from the 87.5 per cent occupancy rate reported on the same day last year.

The trickle-down effect for small, locally owned businesses on the mountain is also very real. Jude Brunt, co-owner of Globe Café, says the drop in numbers has left her struggling to keep seats filled and staff employed.

“We’re also having to keep our staff motivated in innovative ways,” said Brunt.

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“Staff virtual team events, care packages and assistance with mental health challenges are all part of our responsibility as employers this year, and our business will hopefully survive because of it.”

Click to play video: 'The delicate issue of a travel ban and its impacts on Whistler' The delicate issue of a travel ban and its impacts on Whistler
The delicate issue of a travel ban and its impacts on Whistler – Jan 14, 2021

Big White says it is offering assistance to staff who are looking to stay afloat financially.

The lift ambassador program was launched during the holiday season, providing employment for an additional 12 team members who have moved from inside operations to outdoor operations.

“The outdoor program is working brilliantly,” said Trevor Hanna, vice-president of hospitality at Big White.

“Season passholders and local skiers and snowboarders have really championed the resort’s safety plan. And to date, we are proud to say there has been no identification of transmission of COVID-19 outdoors or in the workplace on Big White Mountain.”

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