The Rocky Mountaineer has delayed its 2021 Canadian travel season for the second time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company has moved its start date to July 5 from June 1. Its original start date was supposed to be April 26.
A spokesperson for Rocky Mountaineer said the decision to again delay the start of the season was done in “consideration of the continuing travel restrictions and uncertainty of when they will be lifted.”
“We are extremely disappointed to be forced to delay the start of our season, but we remain very optimistic about restarting travel in July,” company founder Peter Armstrong said in a press release.
Affected guests are being offered a future travel credit equivalent to 110 per cent of money paid.
Guests for 2021 can also choose to transfer their booking to the new route in the U.S., Rockies to the Red Rocks, with an added incentive to return to travel on the Canadian routes in the future.
The company said it is still working to prepare its trains for anticipated operations in 2021 and recently recalled operations and maintenance staff to its rail yard in Kamloops.
Part of the preparation is ensuring the company’s COVID-19 protocols, which were drawn up last year, are ready to use for the health and safety of guests and staff. Not operating in 2020 led to the company laying off a number of employees and reducing hours for its workforce amidst minimal revenue.
The Rocky Mountaineer cancelled its entire Canadian travel season last year due to the pandemic after delaying the start date multiple times.
Multiple would-be passengers contacted KTW last year, upset with the company for not honouring refunds on deposits, which the company refused, citing its force majeure policy, which governs unforeseeable circumstances that prevent a contract from being fulfilled.
A Facebook group of people frustrated over the situation has since grown to more than 350 members. Some have posted of receiving refunds, but group organizer Wayne Miller, from Australia, told KTW recently there are still many people waiting to get their money back.
“Unless you make a lot of noise, they won’t refund you,” Miller said, noting he received a partial refund for his planned rail tour last year via a credit card charge-back.
Before the pandemic hit, Rocky Mountaineer hosted close to 100,000 guests on its trains during its busiest six-month season. Those tourists filled many Kamloops hotel rooms during the season, an absence that was noticed last year, with Tourism Kamloops noting Rocky Mountaineer guests spent about $50 million annually, which is about 10 per cent of the estimated $500 million spent annually by all tourists in the city.
In a normal year, the Rocky Mountaineer employs between 60 and 65 full-time staff in Kamloops, with an additional 30 to 40 seasonal workers. Kamloops is also home to Rocky Mountaineer’s maintenance, rail operations, engineering, finance, human resources and training teams.
In Western Canada, Rocky Mountaineer offers three routes that connect Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies towns of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, two of which stop in Kamloops.