The lost summer: Tourism operators confront whether it's worth reopening at all
Some businesses choosing between drastic changes or taking a financial hit
As Newfoundland and Labrador progresses slowly through a phased reopening plan, the owner of the Fishers' Loft inn in Port Rexton faced a dilemma: open and offer guests a lesser experience under the pandemic's public health restrictions, or close and take a financial hit.
After meeting with his employees, John Fisher chose the latter.
"We've talked it over with the staff, and our general view is that we are simply not going to operate this year," Fisher told The St. John's Morning Show on Tuesday.
To follow public health orders, Fisher said, the business would have to drastically change. The inn would have to remove staple items like binoculars, hiking sticks and other touchpoints.
"It's a high-risk environment," he said. "We've had wonderful staff working for us for 15, 20 years, and I wouldn't want to subject them for one minute to something that we thought had any risk attached to it."
Fisher said the decision to close for the year was a tough one, but he didn't want to offer a watered-down experience to customers. But he knows both he and his employees will take a financial hit as a result.
"We're talking about 23 people, we're talking about 23 families," Fisher said. "This is very serious economically for each of those families.… It's a serious hit."
I know I'm not gonna make very much money this year.- Sue Rose
Other hospitality businesses are opting to remain open in the hopes a "staycation" plan comes from the provincial government.
Sue Rose, owner of Coastal Cottages in Blackhead, Conception Bay North, said things will look different this year as the business relies on tourists coming to Newfoundland. However, she has decided to open her "authentic shed experiences" to residents of the province.
"Families come in a bubble," Rose said Wednesday. "They're going to be on four acres of land.… The shed is going to be theirs to use."
Like Fisher, Rose said her business's offerings will have to change as a result of the pandemic. Items such as ugly sticks and instruments will be removed, and she is asking those who book to bring their own pillows and sleeping bags. The house will also be left for 24 hours before it is cleaned, meaning the cleaning process could take days.
"I can still do things … but I know I'm not gonna make very much money this year," she said.
Rose said she wants to hear from a strategy from the provincial government on how to allow tourism. Following the staycation plan, she wants to find ways to encourage Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to tour their own province this summer, and hopes the provincial Department of Tourism will help.
"It's about the advertising now. Show people what we offer," she said. "We got spectacular places. We have to start advertising to our own community in one way or another and we have to start right now."
With files from The St. John's Morning Show