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

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

Letter writer concerned there was a lack of notice by School District 83 regarding the May 12 board meeting on the district’s Long Range Facilities Plan. Discussion at the meeting is expected to focus on Salmon Arm schools, including the J.L. Jackson campus. (Google maps image)
Letter: Public provided little notice on Salmon Arm school facilities meeting

Writer questions what constitutes proper communication

School District 83 trustees host a special meeting on Wednesday, May 12, to once again discuss the district’s Long Range Facilities Plan. (File photo)
School trustees host special meeting to tackle Salmon Arm facilities

Afternoon online meeting planned for Wednesday, May 12

The Sprig of Heather restaurant at R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum features a 40-by-40 foot covered pavilion in the heart of the public garden. (Photo contributed)
Salmon Arm’s RJ Haney Heritage Village preps for opening of new attractions

No date set yet, new highlights will be Sprig of Heather restaurant, Children’s Discovery Centre

A topographic (3D) perspective captured from Google Earth, to create a perspective of the approximate proposed cut block outlines on Mount Ida in relation familiar local landmarks. (Alex Inselberg image)
Salmon Arm council’s concerns eased over Mount Ida logging

Fire chief explains proposed cut complements wildfire risk reduction efforts

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

The City of Vernon is taking a close look at six high-priority Okanagan Lake access points, including three sites along Tronson Road (pictured above) in May 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon council looking closely at Okanagan Lake access points

Six access points have been identified as ideal for recreation

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Police working to identify the two bodies found in South Okanagan

The area will see higher police presence ahead of a forensic examination

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)
More than 40% of Central Okanagan residents have received 1st vaccine dose

Local clinics have administered 81,247 first doses to Central Okanagan residents

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Michelle St. Pierre, UBCO’s 2021 graduate student researcher of the year, is hoping to change the discussion surrounding the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs. (UBCO photo)
UBCO researcher examining therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs

Michelle St. Pierre has been researching the use of psychedelics since 2015

Most Read