‘Everybody’s in the same boat’: Tourism operators starting to see COVID-19 cancellations

Farwell Canyon near Riske Creek, B.C. is a destination spot for tourists in the Cariboo Chilcotin. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Owners of the Historic Chilcotin Lodge at Riske Creek, B.C. are starting to see cancellations come in as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Brenda Van Embers said everyone’s in the same boat and needs to remain calm and work together. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake
Brenda, Kris and Kurt Van Embers own and operate the Historic Chilcotin Lodge in Riske Creek, B.C. (Photo submitted)

Global uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis is already impacting the tourism industry, even for small, remote B.C. operators.

“The cancellations are just starting to roll in,” said Brenda Van Embers on Monday, March 16.

Brenda, her husband Kurt and son Kris have owned and operated the Historic Chilcotin Lodge at Riske Creek for the past four years, purchasing the 10-bedroom lodge about a half hour’s drive west of Williams Lake in April 2017, just before the wildfires.

“”It’s pretty scary out there. It’s very stressful, but everybody’s in the same boat. It’s not just us,” Van Embers said. “We have to remain calm and work together.”

Brenda said she waived the fee for this weekend’s cancelled bookings and is looking ahead to adjust Easter plans and other activities for the lodge and tea house as the coronavirus situation continues to unfold.

“It was going to be a wonderful season,” said Van Embers, noting half of her summer bookings are with European travellers taking part in the popular circle tour from Williams Lake to Bella Coola, then boarding BC Ferries to Vancouver Island. Those cancellations haven’t come in yet, she said.

“I almost don’t want to answer the phone.”

In terms of promised government compensation for potential business loss as a result of COVID-19, the Van Embers family have experienced emergency funding following the 2017 wildfire, from which they feel they have just recovered.

READ MORE: New Chilcotin Lodge owners find themselves in the thick of it

“We know through the wildfires there was help, so we are confident there will be again,” she said.

In the meantime, Van Embers is staying home, keeping a watchful eye on the media and government updates, and worrying about her elderly father.

“Everybody’s worried. We don’t go anywhere unless we have to.”

READ MORE: B.C. launches online COVID-19 self-assessment tool

Representatives from Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association (CCCTA) said Wednesday (March 18) they are working closely with health authorities, government, and other industry partners to minimize the impacts of the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 and build resiliency in communities and the tourism industry.

“We have mobilized as part of the provincial Tourism Emergency Response Team, gathering information from tourism businesses and sharing with government immediate and future needs,” stated Amy Thacker, chief executive officer of the CCCTA.

“We will be making information available to tourism operators and working directly with impacted businesses to build resiliency and aid recovery.”

Destination BC told Black Press Media on the weekend that it has already begun to implement its multi-phased emergency management and recovery marketing plans, exploring the most effective ways to support B.C.’s tourism industry throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

“To mitigate impacts from the loss of visitation from certain international markets, Destination BC will redirect marketing funds on a temporary basis to our short-haul markets, including Alberta and B.C., to influence travellers during prime booking times for each market,” stated the spokesperson.

“Our short-haul markets have historically proven that they do still travel during situations like these, prioritizing destinations that are close to home, and they make those decisions on a short-term basis.”

On Destination BC’s website, a COVID-19 resource page has been added that is regularly updated, and includes federal and provincial information on infection prevention, travel advisories and suspensions, flights and border services, cruise lines, the role of DBC and Destination Canada in international destination marketing, and official provincial health directives.

There is also a visitors resource page on HelloBC.com with the latest information: hellobc.com/what-you-need-to-know/.”

Tourism in British Columbia generates upwards of $19 billion in revenues annually through more than 19,000 (small) businesses that employ over 330,000 people. The industry has enjoyed record-setting growth in recent years and has become the province’s third-largest business sector, according to the Tourism Industry Association of B.C.

READ MORE: Tourism industry advocate calls for emergency fund in wake of COVID-19 cancellations

CoronavirusTourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

COVID-19: Isolation exemptions to frontline workers a danger to patients, say Island Health employees

Staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel according to Island Health

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

‘I just don’t get it’, Wash Me on Ludlow suffers thefts and abuse of services

Owner Michelle Nischi is concerned for her health and her business

Ladysmith businesses carry on in the time of COVID-19

Local businesses struggle to stay open and serve the public

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

Ongoing list of Ladysmith COVID-19 cancellations and closures

Everything in Ladysmith that has been impacted by COVID-19

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Most Read