How some P.E.I. cottages went from cancellations to bookings in 24 hours
'The phone was off the hook for about three or four hours straight'
What a difference a day makes. A few days ago, accommodation operators on P.E.I. were dealing with cancellations — now they're busy handling bookings.
For the past few months, COVID-19 travel and public health restrictions led to many off-Island visitors cancelling their reservations.
On Wednesday, the premiers in Atlantic Canada announced they would form a travel bubble, allowing residents of the four provinces to travel in the region without self-isolating for 14 days.
"Within an hour, the phone was off the hook for about three or four hours straight and all the emails were coming in with the bookings," said Robert Norton, manager of Blue Spruces Cottages in Hampton, P.E.I.
He has 14 two- and three-bedroom cottages for rent throughout the summer and he said almost all his bookings come from visitors off the Island.
Before the Atlantic bubble announcement this week, Norton said the business was operating at 45 per cent of a typical year. In just one day, it's up to 50 per cent.
"Looking at the number before that it was not looking too promising, so it was nice to finally get relief," said Norton.
Norton said the decision to open at all was a gamble. Without the regional bubble, he doubts his business would have survived this summer.
Now, with bookings up, staff of Blue Spruces are taking additional steps to secure reservations. As guests book online, they are reminded to complete and bring a copy of a self-declaration form. This form can be downloaded from online and travellers will be expected to show it when they come to P.E.I.
Norton said he hopes to "get people over here to enjoy the Island again and get the economy moving again and follow the guidelines to keep everybody safe and have a good time."
Relieved, but scrambling
"This is the news we've been looking for," said Robbie Shaw, owner of Shaw's Hotel and Cottages in Brackley Beach.
In the past few months, the hotel also lost a large portion of its business because many reservations were cancelled. But in the past day alone, Shaw's got 12 new reservations and six more inquiries.
"We're scrambling to prepare," said Shaw, adding that he's hiring back staff and planning some promotion to attract more reservations. He has also opened up a self-contained cottage that can be requested.
He said he normally has 55 people on staff. Right now he only has six. He said he "will be ramping up slightly more next week and then slightly more after that but I probably will have a third of the staff I had last year."
More staff means more personal protective equipment. Shaw said he had a limited amount of supplies on hand as he was not expecting the province's borders to open up to visitors.
He expects the next week to be hectic, making all the arrangements.
"Things that will have to happen in the next 10 days, it's something that usually happens in two months," said Shaw.
There is uncertainty around bookings from residents outside of Atlantic Canada. Norton hopes to hear more guidance around the rules of interprovincial travel sooner rather than later so he can adjust accordingly. For now, he and Shaw are grateful.
More from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Jessica Doria-Brown