The Kamloops Accommodation Association says hotel owners are "cautiously optimistic” about the reopening of non-essential travel in British Columbia.
On June 24, the province entered phase three of B.C.’s Restart Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kamloops Accommodation Association president Tyson Andrkyew said it is evident British Columbians are paying attention to the news and gauging summer plans based on advice from medical experts.
“The second they announced that we were going into phase three, there were hotels that said, ‘We got half-a-dozen phone calls for bookings then and there,’” Andrykew said. “Pretty quickly after that, sort of thing — all leisure bookings for travel, non-essential travel. It does appear that people are paying attention and are making travel plans based on what our public health authorities are saying.”
Andrykew said the industry experienced a 90 per cent decline in April as borders were closed to all but non-essential travel and measures were put in place to curb spread of the novel coronavirus.
Numbers improved slightly in May, while June’s figures have yet to be released. The newly renovated Delta Hotel Kamloops on Victoria Street closed shortly after the pandemic was declared by the World Health organization in mid-March. The hotel — which had closed for the winter of 2018-2019 as it underwent a $9-million renovation that saw its monicker change to Delta from Hotel 540 — has since reopened. Andrykew noted a couple of other undisclosed hotels confirmed closure in a survey.
Meanwhile, the industry is looking forward.
“It is promising because it seems we are working toward a bit of reopening and hotels are cautiously optimistic that they’ll have something that will resemble a regular summer, hopefully,” he said. “Obviously, it’s still going to be quite far off from what we’re used to here in Kamloops.”
Andrykew said Canada has a tourism deficit — meaning Canadians travel more outside of the country than within — that is among the largest in the world. If Canadians travelled at home, it could help businesses, Andrykew said.
“If, suddenly, all those Canadians that would normally take a trip outside of their own country cannot do that, they would, in theory, travel within their own country,” he said. “It would be pretty significant, but there’s also a lot of mentality from people, ‘I don’t travel within my own country. I’ll save my money until I can go.’”
Where they would travel in Canada remains to be determined. And, as British Columbians make plans at home this summer, Andrykew said B.C. residents do not have the ability to fully fill gaps in the local tourism industry, which relies on international visitors.
“Particularly here with the Rocky Mountaineer,” Andrykew said. “Significant here to our local economy here, without the visitation.”
The rail-tour company normally operates from mid-April to mid-October on four routes through B.C. and Alberta, with a cross-border connection to Seattle. Tens of thousands of people come to Kamloops aboard its trains each year, with the majority staying one night.
The Rocky Mountaineer was set to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2020 with delivery of its 10th new rail car. The company, which draws international tourists for a glimpse of Western Canada’s Rocky Mountains, estimates it generated between $47 and $49 million of spending in Kamloops in 2017 — figures based on company and passenger spending.