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Staycations providing much needed boost for Saskatchewan hotel business

Click to play video 'Staycations providing much needed boost for Saskatchewan hotel business' Staycations providing much needed boost for Saskatchewan hotel business
WATCH: Stakeholders everywhere are promoting vacationing at home to escape the winter blues as Saskatchewan hotel occupancy levels remain at a fraction of normal levels. – Feb 12, 2021

As travelling internationally during the pandemic becomes even more costly and complex, some are finding new ways to use up their vacation days this winter.

Enter the staycation.

“Every jurisdiction across Canada is engaged in the same sort of marketing activity, and that is around the staycation,” Hospitality Saskatchewan CEO Jim Bence said.

“It’s been a long pandemic. I think a lot of people want to get out and about. If you’re from a rural market, it’s a great opportunity to come to the city. And, if you’re from the city we’ve got some really wonderful destinations out there.”

Read more: COVID-19: Snowbird calls mandatory hotel quarantines and ever-changing travel rules ‘ludicrous’

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Bence said occupancy rates are averaging as low as eight per cent in some Saskatchewan jurisdictions, a “fraction of what they typically would be running.”

“Any kind of corporate meetings, conferences or trade shows – all of that activity is virtually at a standstill,” Bence said.

He added many hotels are contemplating temporary or permanent closure as the pandemic continues.

“As it stretches out, as this runway gets longer, fixed costs are the same. If you looked at a large downtown property that can be upwards of $250,000 a month while it sits empty.”

Bence said Hospitality Saskatchewan is set to roll out a staycation promotional campaign of their own in coming weeks which will tout the benefits of supporting local business.

“The hotel and restaurant industry is built on a franchise model. 80 per cent of them are independently owned. These are people in our own cities and towns that own these properties,” he said.

“Lets go out and visit these folks that have been pillars in our communities. As long as we do it safely and within the guidelines, we think this really is a great time to discover our province maybe even for the first time.”

Read more: Moose Jaw tourism video pokes fun at politicians who travelled during COVID-19 pandemic

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The Atlas Hotel in Saskatchewan developed two staycation packages after the pandemic began – one for couples and one for families.

The family package includes semi-private access to the hotel’s waterpark and a food voucher that can be used for room service while the couples package includes a three course meal in one of the hotel’s

Chief experience officer Ryan Urzada said that while the proverbial vacancy sign is still well lit, the packages have made a big impact considering the hotal was selling just “two or three” rooms a night when the pandemic first hit.

“It’s been huge for us. I mean, It’s only thirty rooms out of 200, but it’s a a boost,” Urzada said. “It gives our staff some hours and keeps people feeling like they’re actually doing something fun and interesting.”

Read more: COMMENTARY: Not even SARS could prepare the hospitality industry for COVID-19

Urzada says both packages sold out for the Family Day weekend.

And, while the staycation may not be a one-stop solution for the problems, he thinks staycations could have a long term benefit as well.

We want Regina people to g out and experience this,” he said. “They’re our best sales people when it comes to talking to friends/colleagues and relatives outside of Regina.”

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