It’s tough times for a local North Island hotel. But its management team is staying positive, pointing to grant money that helped keep business afloat through this unprecedented era.
Nationwide, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Salesforce threw a lifeline to small businesses. They did that by divvying out $10,000 lifeline grants in the wake of the pandemic shutdown.
One of the 62 grant recipients was Port Hardy’s Kwa’lilas Hotel.
According to general manager Enrique Toledo, the funds were used for both development and training, helping to beef up protocols keeping staff and guests safe from the virus.
“Tourism, specifically, has been impacted drastically by COVID-19,” Toledo told My Campbell River Now.
“Port Hardy is a community that deals with a lot of historical trauma already,” he said. “It’s a remote location, and COVID prompted everyone to stand still. Some people had to make some really hard choices, paying rent or buying food.”
For Toledo and his staff, it’s been a difficult year and a half. But he’s thankful for the business partnerships that were already in place prior to COVID-19, as well as the grant money that started flowing in.
According to Toledo, when the pandemic hit, the hotel faced low occupancy numbers. So low, he’s never experienced anything like it in his entire 40 years in the hospitality industry.
“Two per cent occupancy for months,” he said. “We had to go into stages of layoffs which was extremely hard.”
However, things are looking up, with people travelling from different provinces again, Toledo explained. As well, he noted that COVID-19 has really changed how they run things.
“We are going more digital. Our menus are in an app, we’re working on a touchless front desk, and we’re exploring how we can integrate that with housekeeping,” Toledo said. “It has changed how we do business, it has put us into the 21st century.”
Prior to COVID-19, the hotel underwent a full renovation, introducing a more modern, chic design for guests paired with local Aboriginal artistic expressions.
“The feedback has been really positive,” added Toledo. “We’re now fully booked for events, while following COVID compliance. People are bringing their corporate business back.”
Small Business Week:
The Province of B.C. is underscoring resilience, perseverance and innovation, as it shines a light on small businesses that managed to keep the doors open despite COVID-19.
These three traits are highlighted now more than ever, as we come off Small Business Week, which ran from Oct. 17 to 23.
Last Monday, Jobs and Economic Recovery Minister, Ravi Kahlon, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has actually tested each and every small business in every part of the province.
“From shifting sales to online platforms to the successful implementation of the B.C. vaccine card, small businesses continue to support their communities through these difficult times,” Kahlon said.
In an effort to help, throughout the pandemic, the Province has provided financial support to hard-hit industries.
Officials point to the Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery and the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grants, which alone have committed more than half a billion dollars to support B.C. businesses.