September 26, 2021 – 11:30 a.m.
Even though British Columbia and the world were contained during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the hospitality industry suffered more in 2021, particularly in the Thompson-Okanagan-Kootenay tourist region.
Statistics provided by the BC Hotel Association show that the room occupancy rate reached 72.4% from January to August 2019.
That figure fell to 40.7% in 2020, even though much of the world was shut down, people stayed at home, and for months malls and restaurants were closed.
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Despite the fact that restrictions were relaxed in the summer of 2020 and travel to British Columbia has increased, the occupancy rate of hotels in the province has fallen to just 35.5% this year.
âIn 2021, coupled with the lack of demand – no meetings, no conferences, no events, no music events, no crews, no business trips, no government trips, no international trips , no US travelers – we’ve lost 30% of our workforce since 2019, âIngrid Jarrett, President and CEO of the BC Hotel Association, told iINFOnews.ca.
The 30% figure is a national figure but reflects what happened in British Columbia, she said.
âAs we seek to recover, in the hope of increasing the occupancy rate, we cannot increase the occupancy rate because we have no one to clean the rooms, open the restaurants or cook in the restaurants. kitchens or whatever, âJarrett says. “We have whole wings of hotels that are closed because we have no one to work.”
Two thousand rooms have closed in British Columbia since the start of the pandemic, she said.
With wildfires and massive evacuations this summer, hotel rooms in places like Kamloops were in high demand, but they weren’t always full, she said.
And many of those rooms were paid for at government rates well below what would normally have been charged.
In the Okanagan, a busy summer came to a screeching halt when COVID restrictions were imposed on the central Okanagan on August 6. These included closing bars and nightclubs as well as a recommendation to stop non-essential travel to and from the region. . Some of these restrictions are still in place.
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âWe had hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellations in one day,â Jarrett said. âAnd then there was the smoke and the fire, so people were very concerned about the quality of the air. Then there was the state of emergency due to the fires, which also restricted travel to the Okanagan. ”
The association does not break down occupancy rates by region, but lists domestic overnight stays – the nights British Columbia residents spend away from home – by region. In the most recent week, September 6 to 12, visits increased 4.2% in British Columbia from 2019, but in the Thompson-Okanagan area they were down 6.1% .
go2HR – an industry association that provides human resources services – has an online employment tracking tool that provides detailed breakdowns of employment statistics by region.
It shows that the accommodation industry in the Thompson-Okanagan-Kootenay region has been devastated this year, especially in August.
Employment in the region’s accommodation industry fell to 3,250 people in August from 9,250 last year and 10,250 in 2019.
The food and beverage sector recorded a decrease of 3,000 employees to 16,250 from the previous year. There were 23,250 employees in this sector in 2019.
On the positive side, the leisure and entertainment industry grew by 4,500 people this year to 15,000, up from 11,500 in each of the previous two years. Transportation and travel increased by 1,000 from last year to 9,250.
âWe’re in a very, very difficult situation,â Jarrett said. âBookings in the books for the fall across the province are extremely low. There is no certainty that we will see a drop with any type of demand.
She is also worried about ski slopes that depend on foreign labor, especially Australia, where borders are currently closed.
But it’s not just Australia. There are not enough Canadians to work in the industry, so it relies heavily on foreign workers.
“All the access we had before – international students, working holiday visas, new Canadians, foreign workers, internships – there are about 10 to 20 different sources of international labor that have always been available to us.” , Jarrett said. âWe would have had thousands of working holiday visas for workers from Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland and France. These are young people who travel and work and they are qualified people in our industry.
His association is working with the federal and provincial governments to try to put in place programs so that these workers can come to Canada.
She expects it to be, at least, spring 2022 before there is a real recovery in both the workforce and the number of domestic and international travelers so that hotel rooms can not only be opened but fulfilled.
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