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Banff Springs Hotel closes to help 'halt the spread of COVID-19'

An iconic hotel in the Rocky Mountains has ceased operations — temporarily — as COVID-19 decimates Alberta's tourism.

Iconic hotel is often packed with sightseers but has been quiet in recent weeks

Parks Canada restricted vehicles in the national parks and national historic sites in Banff, Alta. The normally busy Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has been quiet as a result. On Friday, it closed. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

An iconic hotel in the Rocky Mountains has ceased operations — temporarily — as COVID-19 continues to decimate Alberta's tourism.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has closed as of noon Friday, a rare move for the 132-year-old business.

Over the years, the hotel has shuttered for renovations and during wartime, and was a seasonal operation prior to the late 1960s.

"This certainly isn't goodbye, it's farewell for now," hotel management said in a message posted to its website.

Doors at the hotel were closed to support local authorities in their work "to halt the spread of COVID-19," the message said.

"We currently live in a world that is changing rapidly – by the day and by the hour," it said.

"As we navigate through these times of change and uncertainty, we do so with the safety of both our loyal and valued guests and employees as our highest priority."

Normally bustling Banff Avenue is quiet on a Friday afternoon in April. The mountain town reliant on tourism and visitors has seen disproportionate layoffs and business closures. (Dale Einarson/Banff & Lake Louise Tourism)

Banff in particular has been hit hard during this pandemic. Unemployment has hit up to 85 per cent in the town, according to the local MLA, as the community's economy depends on now non-existent tourism.

The Banff Springs Hotel itself draws thousands of sightseers each year. But in recent weeks, the area around the hotel has been quiet.

'Challenging' path forward

Leslie Bruce, president and CEO of Banff and Lake Louise Tourism, said the town is facing hard times but many people are starting to look at what comes next.

"That path forward, it's going to be challenging," Bruce said.

"With so many people who have left, with so many businesses that have shut their doors in order to weather this period of time — this unknown period of time, it's going to take a very large effort to restart the industry."

Officials in the community have asked non-residents to stay away from the townsite to avoid further spread of the deadly coronavirus. As of Friday, officials have begun stopping cars to urge drivers to turn around.

Parks Canada has also restricted access to parking and facilities in national parks.

Jasper Park Lodge also closed temporarily as of noon Friday.

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