Okanagan hotels faring better than rest of B.C. with easing COVID-19 restrictions on tourism - InfoNews

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Okanagan hotels faring better than rest of B.C. with easing COVID-19 restrictions on tourism

FILE PHOTO - Hotel Zed
Image Credit: Rob Munro
July 12, 2020 - 7:00 AM

As B.C. reopens to tourists following the lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic, a Kelowna hotel is seeing an increase in reservations while others in the province remain closed.

Trina Notman, the VP of sales and marketing for Hotel Zed, says the hotel was sitting at about 80 per cent occupancy as of July 4.

Springtime is when the hotel will typically start to see a boost in reservations as the tourism season gets underway, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, those months saw zero guests, she said.

For a typical July and August, Hotel Zed will reach about 90 per cent capacity.

READ MORE: COVID-19 wreaking havoc on Canada's hospitality industry, MPs told

“We’re not doing any advertising out of province, just to be respectful of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s guidelines,” Notman said.

With eight hotel locations in the Accent Inns chain in the province, Kelowna and Victoria are the most popular summer destinations for B.C. residents, she said.

“Once summer comes, people in B.C. will flock to Kelowna… that’s typical of any year,” Notman said. “We’re not getting that sort of pickup in the other destinations.”

Accent Inns has a hotel in Richmond hotel and it isn't seeing the usual guests with the Vancouver airport not having regular flights, she said.

“We’ve definitely… needed a summer season to see that summer traffic coming back,” she said. “I think in Kelowna it will be a strong couple of months depending on the news of day.”

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Kelowna and Tofino are the two areas in B.C. that are seeing the highest occupancy rates, said Ingrid Jarrett, president of the B.C. Hotel Association.

“They’re the top destinations for British Columbians to travel to every summer, but the problem for the rest of the province is that meetings and conferences, international and US travel, are not happening," she said. “There are many hotels in the province that are completely dependant on international travel."

Hotels in the popular locations may also be full on weekends, she said, but there's plenty of rooms available from Monday to Friday.

Hotels on average in the Thompson-Okanagan region are sitting at 43 per cent occupancy for the month of July, with the province overall sitting at about 20, she said. Twenty-five per cent of B.C. hotels are currently closed and 36,000 employees are laid off. Hotels don’t make money until they’re at 55 per cent occupancy.

“There is a very dire need for residents of British Columbia to book directly with their hotels,” Jarrett said.

Outside booking agencies like Expedia take about 20 to 30 per cent of the profit, so going directly to a hotel or a travel agency will ensure the hotels are making the most money and that way customers can ensure they understand the COVID-19 protocols with the hotels.

“It’s difficult for those businesses to survive unless we start to do a lot of marketing in the province, unless British Columbians know that they’re there," Jarrett said.

With no government assistance, she estimated that 30 per cent of B.C. hotels will close forever.

“Not only is this the hotel business that will fail, it’s all the attractions and transportation and other avenues that rely on the hotels that will also go under," she said.

Jarrett is encouraging residents to explore B.C. and visit Destination B.C. to learn more about where they can visit can travel to support the B.C. economy.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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