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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The site of the King George Hotel in Cumberland. Photo by Mike Chouinard
VIU students research Cumberland’s past, future

Specific practicum topics were King George Hotel’s significance, densification incentives

Courtenay–Alberni MP Gord Johns says 12 million Canadians do not have dental insurance. Photo by Bofu Shaw, courtesy of Unsplash
Courtenay–Alberni MP, CDA consider dental care for all Canadians

Gord Johns has initiated a mail-out that asks constituents the date of… Continue reading

A 407 Squadron CP-140 Aurora, along with a Halifax-Class frigate enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea in support of Op Neon in 2019. Canadian Forces photo/submitted
407 Squadron defends Canada for 80 years

The Comox-based squadron celebrating special anniversary

Jasmine Francoeur from Comox is an aviation technician for the Snowbirds air demonstration team. Photo by Canadian Forces/submitted
Comox’s Jasmine Francoeur’s career comes full circle with the Snowbirds

“To fly out here, fly into my hometown, it’s very special and I feel very lucky”

The school board is endorsing a national coalition for healthy food in schools. Screenshot, Comox Valley Schools
Comox Valley school board backs national healthy food initiative

Coalition for Healthy School Food wants federal government to invest in food program

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

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

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Garden centre manager Jack Olszewski and Chris Beaudoin say business has grown by 50 per cent at the Sooke Home Hardware Store. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)
Flower power: COVID restrictions fuel bloom boom on Vancouver Island’

More people seeking flowers to add colour, says Sooke landscaper

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Most Read