Kamloops hotels taking a beating during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may not fully recover economically for two years, according to an industry insider.
“We know the hotel industry and any industry related to long-haul tourism is going to be the last of any industry to come back,” said Bryan Pilbeam, general manager of the Delta Hotel by Marriot in Kamloops and chair of the BC Hotel Association. “We are reliant on not just tourism, but corporate travel and conferences, as well.”
Pilbeam’s downtown Delta Hotel remains closed after opting in March to shutter temporarily to help weather the pandemic’s financial fallout. He said he is eyeing Canada Day as a potential day to reopen.
“We’d always thought around the date of July 1,” he said. “We’re optimistic we can do a staged opening in advance of that. Of course, we offset that with the fact there’s no real indicators to tell us that’s a good move from a business standpoint.”
Hotels have not been ordered to close and most remain open in some form.
Pav Gill, who owns Country View Motor Inn and Kings Motor Inn in Valleyview, opted to stay open. Between layoffs and cancelled seasonal hiring, he said he is working at a staffing level about 10 per cent of normal.
“In the winter months, we have people who are maybe working here and they stay long term,” Gill told KTW. “As soon as the weather gets nicer, we usually have more tourists coming in for leisure and sports. This year, we’ve had a lot of cancellations for people coming for leisure. Long-term stays have helped out, but there have been a lot of cancellations.”
With international borders closed and B.C. residents being told to stay close to home, the leisure tourism market has understandably dried up.
“It’s very, very, very small,” Gill said. “People are not travelling. They’re not staying in Kamloops. We’re getting a lot of cancellations — tournaments, powwow, they all cancelled. We’re seeing hardly any travel. Just people who were on their way home stopping for a night, but that has just tapered right off now.”
Last week, Premier John Horgan outlined an economic reopening plan that could see travel pick up in July. Gill said he could see increased travel later this summer if COVID-19 infection numbers remain steady through June.
In a good year, Pilbeam said, Kamloops hotels typically lose money in the winter and hope to earn enough during the warm months to cover costs for the year.
He believes it will be 18 to 24 months before the local accommodation sector — an industry that employs about 1,000 Kamloops residents — is able to find its pre-pandemic footing.
“It’s dire. I don’t want to say it’s as bad as it gets, but it’s close. It’s ugly,” Pilbeam said.
“We’re just coming out of the winter just hanging on and there’s zero revenue coming in. Nobody’s going to really make any money this summer, then you go into a winter season you know is going to be slow.”
Pilbeam said the BC Hotel Association is working with government to find a solution to help steady the accommodation ship.
“We’re trying to get the industry through this. It’s an industry that’s been decimated,” he said.
“But I think there may be some pent-up demand for people to get out and explore the province in a safe way when we’re able to. I like where this industry is heading. There’s just a lot of obstacles to get past to get there.”