Stephane Prevost, a Banff restaurateur, poses in this handout photo. Prevost says the third lockdown comes at a particularly difficult time when he’d usually be preparing to ramp up his staffing and work. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Stephane Prevost, a Banff restaurateur, poses in this handout photo. Prevost says the third lockdown comes at a particularly difficult time when he’d usually be preparing to ramp up his staffing and work. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Staff up now, or stay lean and wait? Hospitality sector faces dilemma amid third wave

Some are still optimistic for the longer-term, and say Canadians have amassed cash during the pandemic

When Stephane Prevost planned to open a second restaurant in Banff this winter, he at least thought he’d have a busy summer to look forward to.

While businesses in town were hammered by the first lockdown in 2020, they eventually benefited from a relatively busy summer season when COVID-19 cases dropped and domestic tourism skyrocketed.

But the chef and managing partner of Block Kitchen and Bar and the newer Shoku Izakaya said the third lockdown comes at a particularly difficult time when he’d usually be preparing to ramp up his staffing.

Industry analysts say the timing and severity of COVID-19’s third wave presents a unique challenge for tourism destinations around Canada, as businesses weigh whether to staff up and support a bloated workforce during the lockdown, or to stay lean and risk struggling to attract workers one or two months from now.

“What you have is a situation where business owners are trying to predict the future and plan and scale their businesses so they can operate during peak season, while getting through an unknown length of time for current restrictions,” said James Jackson, president and CEO of Tourism Jasper.

Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said businesses were counting on a boom in domestic travel over the next few months to get them through the tail end of the pandemic, and both management and employees are now left to make hard decisions.

“Just 6 weeks ago we were looking at summer in a very different way,” said Potter, who is based in Toronto.

“Now we’re not sure what to expect. It makes it very challenging for businesses to plan.”

In Jasper, Jackson said businesses have always had trouble with attracting enough workers and the pandemic has only made things more difficult.

With the third wave putting even more pressure on businesses, Jackson said business owners are essentially having to make a gamble in their next move.

“What happened last summer, was Jasper was devastated by COVID with our economy so reliant on visitation, however we were surprised by the level of visitation we eventually did see,” said Jackson.

“Because of that, there was a lot of pressure on the labour market, because a lot of folks had gone back to Eastern Canada, and obviously some international workers weren’t able to physically get into the country.”

Jackson said he’s concerned tourism workers are getting fed up and leaving the industry because of the boom-bust cycle of each COVID-19 wave — a sentiment that’s mirrored by hospitality advocacy groups in larger cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

But he’s still optimistic for the longer-term, and points out that many Canadians have amassed large amounts of cash during the pandemic.

“My interpretation of that is, when you have high disposable income and you add high deprivation, you’ll see is a high degree of sort of hedonistic spending,” said Jackson, saying that it’ll translate to spending on tourism.

Prevost, the chef in Banff, agrees and said he expects that domestic tourism will return with a vengeance once restrictions are eased.

Both of them say that also means there’ll be a surplus of jobs available in tourism sites like Jasper and Banff as the third wave ends, vaccinations increase and the pandemic winds down.

“As frustrating as it is right now for everybody, it’s about being able to have that little extra resilience and creativity to try and make it until the lifting of restrictions and to enjoy a better summer,” said Prevost.

READ MORE: ‘Can’t afford to lose another summer’: B.C. tourism group supports COVID travel rules

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusTourismtravel

Just Posted

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
B.C. forestry watchdog finds lack of compliance in Nahmint logging

Forest Practices Board says old growth and biodiversity near Port Alberni are at risk

Port Alberni Fire Dept. deputy chief Wes Patterson, right, and another firefighter monitor the front of a garage at Second Avenue and Argyle Street that burned on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Fire starts in empty garage on Argyle Street in Port Alberni

Garage was attached to empty multi-storey commercial building

A painting by Port Alberni artist Robert Hall. Hall uses a technique called Abstract Impressionism. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Port Alberni artist showcases abstract impressionism

Robert Hall’s paintings on display at Rollin Art Centre until May 29

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

RCMP outside the Nanaimo Ice Centre investigating a report of a suspicious person. The incident resulted in hold-and-secures at two nearby schools, but those emergency procedures have now been lifted. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Man walking around Nanaimo marsh with airsoft rifle concerning to police and nearby schools

Two schools went into hold-and-secure procedures Thursday, May 13

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read