Nfld. & Labrador

A summer saver, or not worth it? B&B owners split on Atlantic bubble idea

At a time when bed and breakfasts should be booked up, owners are facing empty rooms and uncertainty over whether a regional travel bubble save their businesses, or even will be worth it.

Businesses say locals aren't booking staycations

B&B owners Lesa and Gery Winsor hope an 'Atlantic bubble' comes soon. (windsorhousenl/website)

As peak tourism season arrives, some bed and breakfast owners in Newfoundland and Labrador are eager to see more details of a possible regional travel bubble, while others say it might not be enough to salvage a summer already decimated by the pandemic.

The "Atlantic bubble" would allow people to move between the four Atlantic provinces without the requirement to isolate, with the intent to spark regional staycations. Premier Dwight Ball indicated Friday that it could be on the verge of reality, a promise that has left some entrepreneurs anxious to hear more.

"Opening up to the other provinces will help us tremendously," said Lesa Winsor, who co-owns Winsor Bed and Breakfast in St. John's with her husband. 

Winsor said Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don't typically stay at their B&B during the summer, and she's not convinced relying on interprovincial traffic to keep them afloat will be overly successful. 

Having tourists come in from other provinces, she said would be more hopeful. 

"Anything will help, I don't care if it's 10 per cent. At least we can try. It may help us."

Wayne Hallett said he won't be opening his B&B Prints of Whales Inn this year. (theprintsofwhalesinn.ca)

Prior to COVID-19, Winsor said 2020 had been shaping up to be their biggest year of bookings — but now, they are facing none, a prospect she called "heartbreaking." The B&B is her family's livelihood, and they rely on the busy summer months to make money.

"We have no other option. We have no other job," said her husband, Gery Winsor.

The couple said if the government does not open up to other Atlantic provinces, they are considering temporarily changing their business plan and renting out their home to students or getting a liquor licence.

But for now, they're stuck in wait-and-see mode, abiding by the safety regulations in order to operate as a bed and breakfast.

'Too iffy' to open

Other owners are not as confident that the Atlantic bubble will be helpful. 

"The season is getting late now and by the time we gear up and do what we have to do to prepare for guests, I don't think it will be worth our while," said Wayne Hallett, who owns the Prints of Whales Inn near Eastport.

"Given the expense we have to go through to start business for the year, it's too iffy to give it a try."

Like the Winsors, he has not seen an increase in bookings from Newfoundlanders and Labadorians.

The safety guidelines set out by the province also played into his decision to stay closed for the summer. Those rules mean he can no longer offer socializing in the inn's common rooms or a communal breakfast.

"In order to ensure the health of ourselves and our guests, what we have to do is almost the opposite of what we have been trying to do in cultivating the experience for the guests who stay here," he said.

He said that he isn't the only one facing a bleak summer. Of the the four licensed bed and breakfasts in his area, he said three of them will not be opening their doors.

Fishers' Loft Inn in Port Rexton decided back in May not to open for the summer season. (Fishers' Loft Inn/Facebook)

Hallett said it's going to be a really tough year not making an income, as the money he makes from the summer often goes into maintaining the home for the following year. However, he's hopeful he will be able to reopen his business next year in preparation for a better season.

"I won't say it's lonely here but it's very, very different," he said. 

"We certainly miss that and miss the opportunity to tell people about our beautiful province and what it has to offer."

On Friday, Ball would not specify when a bubble could be expected, but said the government is working out details with the help of public health officials.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has said he expects an Atlantic bubble in early July. 

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