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 five graduating members of the Vernon-based Thompson Okanagan Lakers U18AAA girls hockey team – Jessica Engelbrecht (from left), Makenna Howe, Cheree Peters, Jayden Perpelitz, and Alexis Bishop – have all committed to collegiate hockey programs in Canada and the U.S. (Photo submitted)
Vernon-based hockey squad sends 5 to college ranks

Thompson Okanagan U18AAA Lakers players heading to Canadian and U.S. programs

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Police report outlines latest efforts to fight North Okanagan sex crimes

The local RCMP sex crimes unit has been involved in a number of investigations so far in 2021

Rutland Senior Secondary School. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
Two Rutland schools exposed to COVID-19

Interior Health confirmed exposures at Rutland Senior Secondary and Pearson Road Elementary

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

Members of the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus sing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Vernon choir steers around COVID with ‘carbershop’ twist

Singers find a unique way to practice during pandemic restrictions

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

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

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

RCMP. (Black Press File)
Major Crimes called in after two bodies discovered near Penticton

A manhunt involving a police helicopter took place on May 10

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read