COVID-19: Ups and downs of businesses reopening in Revelstoke

Continued pandemic restrictions changing dynamics in Revelstoke

Poppi Reiner was planning to retire soon, but due to COVID-19 she’s had to cancel those plans.

“It’s been a heartbreaking time,” said Reiner. She has operated Poppi’s Guesthouse for 12 years.

Poppi Reiner is the owner of Poppi’s Guest House. (File)

The guesthouse reopened last month with less than half its rooms available due to COVID-19 safety protocols.

Revenues plunged as the business was closed for roughly three months and Reiner is only renting half of her rooms.

READ MORE: COVID-19 leads to 75% revenue loss for half of Revelstoke businesses

Reiner said her business is too small to qualify for any relief offered by the government, so she has extended her personal line of credit.

“Just need to keep breathing and hope it all will work out,” she said.

Reiner said her business’s future will largely depend on what happens this winter. If there’s another lockdown and if the ski hill opens.

Another lockdown could mean the end for Reiner’s business.

Revelstoke’s economy

Multiple businesses interviewed by the Review said something similar. Their future depends on the winter season.

Revelstoke’s economy largely depends on tourism dollars. The province’s tourism and hospitality sector is hoping to receive one-third of a $1.5 billion COVID-19 recovery package pledged to B.C. by the federal government.

The hotel accommodation sector has been particularly harshly hit by COVID-19. In April alone, the occupancy rate for Revelstoke hotels crashed by 73 per cent compared to 2019.

Three Valley Gap Chateau opened in 1960. The resort is located on Highway 1, roughly 20 km west of Revelstoke. (Ministry of Transportation)

The Three Valley Lake Chateau is only renting 65 of its 185 rooms. In past summers, the hotel said 170 of its rooms are usually occupied.

The business heavily relies on bus tours and international travelers, which has evaporated.

Instead of employing 80 people, like last year, the resort has 28.

The hotel closes each winter, so to survive, summer revenue is vital.

Rene Bell, owner, said the pandemic has been a huge learning curve. While the business has always relied on buses – what if the tours don’t return anytime soon?

“We’ve been looking at what we’ve always done. Since we opened in 1960. And thinking moving forward, if the same strategies make sense.”

Staff member wears a mask while serving customers at River City Pub. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Brady Beruschi, owner of the Regent Hotel and Best Western said the last several months have been extremely challenging.

For one, finding staff has been difficult.

“People don’t want to work. We are seriously short-staffed,” Beruschi said.

He continued that many people didn’t want to return to work because they are collecting CERB and others are just afraid.

The final eligibility period for receiving the $2,000 monthly CERB payment is scheduled to end Sept. 26.

However, he said more visitors are starting to come to Revelstoke.

Parks Canada said visitation levels to Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Park for June and July was 232,000, which is only approximately 40,000 less than the previous four years.

Regardless, Beruschi has had to vastly change his businesses due to COVID-19. River City Pub is not longer a pub, but a restaurant. There’s no more dancing or pool tables. Diners have to stay separated.

The clientele is different. Beruschi said there’s fewer senior customers.

“They’re not coming.”

He said another lockdown would be devastating. However, Beruschi continued it’s something everyone should prepare for, such as being closed for several months with zero business.

It’s important protecting the public and staff as much as possible, he said.

“The cleaner, the safer we are.”

Wing’N it closed in March and hasn’t reopened. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Closed

Already various businesses have not yet reopened in Revelstoke or have closed permanently due to COVID-19.

Wing’N it Restaurant was only opened for two weeks before the pandemic hit and the business had to close. The company said it could open by winter.

Lakeside Printing left Revelstoke in June. The company said COVID-19 largely contributed to the decision since work volume plunged 85 per cent.

Still based out of Salmon Arm, Lakeside Printing also closed its Vernon and Enderby offices.

“Maybe we’ll return to Revelstoke one day,” said Dan Renaud, manager.

READ MORE: Four new Revelstoke businesses ready to serve you

New opportunities arise

Despite the pandemic, several new businesses in Revelstoke have launched.

A new vacation rental management company Stay Revy opened this summer.

READ MORE: Stay Revy launches despite pandemic

Emily Revell, owner, said she’s confident the tourism market will return.

“Home owners in Revelstoke need vacation property management more than ever, as many of these homeowners live out of province or out of country and therefore rely on my services.”

Lakeside Printing left Revelstoke in June. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Killa B’s Grilla Cheese, a new food truck, opened last month. Although the current economic climate is uncertain, the owners said there are still hungry travellers and locals needing to eat.

READ MORE: ‘Cheesy’ food truck opens in Revelstoke

Revelstoke Trading Post said there has been a strong buy local emphasis during the pandemic.

Now, with summer visitors, the small retail business said sales are up from last year.

“I don’t think we considered how many Canadians would support Canadian businesses,” said Joey Norsworthy, owner.

While local hotel occupancy rates have dropped, Airbnb accommodations have gotten busier.

According to AirDNA, a website that analyzes data from Airbnb and Vrbo vacation rentals, including occupancy rates, revenue and pricing, demand has increased by roughly 20 per cent.

For the first two weeks of August, Airbnb occupancy rates were double, compared to last year. Revenue also increased by more than 38 per cent.

The pipe coaster at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. The company said visitation is similar this year to 2019. (Photo by Tj Balon)

Update from ski hill

Revelstoke Mountain Resort said they are in peak summer operations with strong visitation, similar to last year.

Kevin Manuel, director of marketing, said mountain bike visitation is up significantly this summer, probably because the company has constructed new gondola accessible trails.

READ MORE: Revelstoke Mountain Resort pushing expansion of summer activities

However, Manuel said what winter will be like for the resort is difficult to predict. He admitted the opportunity to draw visitors from international markets will be minimal.

Therefore, the resort will work on attracting rubber tire visitation from Western Canada.

A masked future?

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, some communities in Western Canada have made masks mandatory.

READ MORE: B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

A recent survey by Black Press of more than 900 people in Revelstoke found 63 per cent of respondents wanted city council to make wearing masks mandatory in public.

Revelstoke’s Recovery Task Force has ordered 20,000 reusable masks to give out to residents and visitors for free, the rationale being that masks are the easiest and most effective way to protect each other and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Not only are we protecting ourselves, but we are showing our guests and residents that we care about them,” said a press release from Tourism Revelstoke.

A study from a Texas University suggests that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chances of being infected by COVID-19.

The authors of the study said failure in containing the worldwide virus is partially due to the lack of people wearing masks.

“Wearing a face mask is essential in fighting the virus,” said Renyi Zhang, author of the study.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

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