As more Canadians travel to Vancouver Island this summer, businesses are enjoying the increase in revenue, but many are struggling to keep up with the pent-up demand due to lack of staff.
Frank Naccarato, the owner of Frankie’s Modern Diner in Victoria, said he’s overwhelmed and has had to turn away customers.
“You may come in and see that there’s empty tables and stuff. We just can’t seat them all. We don’t have enough prep cooks to prep the food or cook the food or a server to serve you,” he said.
He’s actively looking for employees for his restaurant and said they’re in desperate need.
Ian MacPhee, the financial controller at Victoria’s Prince of Whales Whale Watching Tours, said his business is also actively hiring.
“We’ll take more staff if we can get them. Everything from those skilled boat captains right on down to the most important guest service people. So, we’re just doing the best we can with what we’ve got,” he said.
His business is down 40 per cent in sales compared to pre-COVID-19 numbers because of the labour shortage.
While MacPhee hopes to book for tours, his business is at the mercy of skilled workers.
According to Dan Law, the mayor of Tofino, some restauranteurs have had to make major changes to their business model.
“Businesses have been very flexible with trying to adapt and working with fewer staff. Reducing hours, keeping the menus as simple and efficient as they can. There’s long line-ups and that can lead to impatience and in some cases, people can get quite angry,” he said.
Law added that Tofino is at 100 per cent occupancy.
“I’m pretty confident this is the busiest year Tofino has ever seen,” he said.
He urges customers to be patient and kind as businesses continue to deal with their understaffing issue.
Paul Nursey, the CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, said this is ongoing theme and that the region needs to open international source markets.
“Traditionally, Victoria’s hospitality industry relied a lot on students and temporary foreign workers. We haven’t had in-class students for quite some time and the immigration system has been shut off for two years,” he said.
Nursey said there’s still a long way to go as the city’s still recovering from the pandemic, but he expects business and staffing will even out in the months ahead.