‘Staycations’ helping Island businesses amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

WatchTravel restrictions outside Canada are resulting in more people spending their vacation dollars here at home. But some tourism operators are now faced with staffing problems instead.

Sproat Lake is a recreational gem on Vancouver Island and the best way to spend a few nights on it might be a houseboat.

That’s what Gary Spencer-Smith and Kryssie Thomson thought when they purchased the well known Fish and Duck Sproat Lake Resort last September.

But just as they were ramping up for their first busy summer season, COVID-19 hit.

“Yeah there was definitely a time when was a lot of pressure on and a lot of very tough decisions had to be made by us,” said Spencer-Smith.

Many bookings were cancelled but then as COVID-19 travel restrictions loosened in BC and the weather started to feel more like summer, the reservations started coming in.

“I think we have two boats available for August 28th weekend, September long is almost booked up and now we’re starting to see all the weekdays, so the Monday to Thursday, Tuesday to Friday starting to book up,” said Thomson.

“We’ve had a few from the island who were going to travel abroad with their families but now they’re looking at this as a staycation because they’ve never done it before so we’re getting a lot of hometown tourists who would usually travel now coming and realizing how beautiful the lake is,” added Spencer-Smith.

They have a fleet of 12 houseboats sleeping up to 15 people. They also have pontoon, ski, and wakeboard boats and it looks like their first summer as owners will be saved by those staying home to vacation this year.

In other places like Parksville Qualicum, it’s more of a cautionary tale where occupancies are running from 52 per cent to 94 per cent depending on the resort property and losses from earlier this year may not be made up.

“Many businesses, especially attractions aren’t able to run at full capacity because of staffing and distancing measures,” said Parksville Qualicum Tourism Association Executive Director Blain Sepos.

“Yes there is a concern,” added Association Chair Pat Jiggins. “There are people who have decided to stay on CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) which is fine but what they may not realize is they can make $1000 a month and still be on CERB so a person who has some serving or cooking or janitorial skills could come and work two or three four hour shifts per week and help out the local companies and that would be ideal.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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