B.C. hotels prepare to welcome back guests with eventual lifting of restrictions


VANCOUVER (CityNews) – Hotels across B.C. are busy preparing for the eventual restart of recreational travel across the province and Canada.

The hotel and tourism industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic. With the province bringing in restrictions on non-essential travel throughout B.C. earlier this year, the situation has been dire for many.

“We’re just so excited. I think they’re going to feel our energy,” said Jacqui McMullen, general manager of Time Square Suites Hotel, of when her staff are able to welcome guests back.

“It’s huge for us. We were tracking in March to have a really good April, May and beyond, and when the circuit breaker happened everything stopped,” she told CityNews. “Everyone’s cautiously optimistic. We’re hoping people will feel comfortable in cities and want a downtown experience.”

Currently, restrictions on non-essential travel between health zones remain in place, with June 15 set as the earliest date they can be lifted. It’s a moment Times Square Suites Hotel in downtown Vancouver is eagerly awaiting.

“What we expect is going to be our familiar guests, so the ones that are coming in from the Island, and from the Sunshine Coast, and Prince George that know us and have been coming here for years,” she said.

“We had always had high standards, but now we’re just making sure that we’ve got the extra touch points, like little bottles of hand sanitizer,” McMullen said, adding her staff are doing paint touch ups and other detailed work with the time they have right now.

The British Columbia Hotel Association says hotels across the province are in desperate need of support.

“We’re looking at occupancies in the Vancouver, Whistler, Victoria areas, the lowest on record. So we have single-digit occupancy in all three of those jurisdictions. And we also have different areas around the province, like the Cariboo, the north, the Shuswap, some parts of the Kootenays, that really need B.C. residents to support them,” implored Ingrid Jarrett, BCHA president and CEO.

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However, not all hotels are quite so excited for provincial travel to resume.

Erica Newlove with the Sunshine Lodge in Gibsons would like to see more vaccines administered before travel throughout B.C. — and to her small community — is permitted.

“A little scary. Most of my staff, all of my staff members — we have six on staff — they have only been vaccinated once, so opening early is kind of putting us in a scary situation, like in the beginning of the pandemic when we weren’t even vaccinated,” she said. “I would like to see it pushed back, and I’d like to see more vaccine being done prior to open.”

Hotels are not the only businesses longing for a return to normal. Brian McCutcheon, co-owner and operator of Roam Adventures — which offers guided tours and activities — says travel restrictions have been devastating.

“For us, in particular, we deal with more of an international and U.S.-based audience, so our situation is not improved. But for those, my colleagues who deal on a more domestic market, there’s some good news in sight. But we’re really hoping to get the borders opened to foreign travellers who have been both vaccinated and tested,” he said.

There is hope that things will pick up for the summer. B.C. has laid out its plan to lift restrictions in four phases, which includes relaxing of travel orders and other measures in the weeks and months ahead.

“Since the 25th of May, our bookings have been positive,” said McMullen. “So we’re not seeing the international bookings yet, but we’re seeing a good number from across Canada, so that shows optimism.”

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