Banff Springs, other Fair­mont prop­er­ties to re­open June 1 with COVID safe­guards

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - OLIVIA CONDON ocon­don@post­media.com Twit­ter: @olivi­a­con­don

Nor­mally bustling with guests, trav­ellers and staff this time of year, the lobby and hall­ways of Banff’s iconic 132-year-old Fair­mont Banff Springs ho­tel have been eerily quiet for more than a month.

But with the an­nounce­ment from Parks Canada that cer­tain na­tional parks across the coun­try will re­open some at­trac­tions and fa­cil­i­ties on June 1, Fair­mont prop­er­ties in the Rock­ies have de­cided to fol­low suit.

“That gave us the abil­ity to say now that the world at large is al­lowed back in, we will open,” said David Roberts, Fair­mont Banff Springs gen­eral man­ager.

“We’ll open very grad­u­ally with two to three floors be­cause we don’t ex­pect de­mand to be par­tic­u­larly strong at the out­set,” said Roberts, who also serves as Fair­mont’s re­gional vice-pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian western moun­tain re­gion. “I think there is a lot of pent-up de­mand in Al­berta for people to travel, but that’ll be con­cen­trated on the week­ends in the be­gin­ning.”

Though Parks Canada did not in­de­pen­dently con­firm the list of locations to open June 1, Roberts said they’ve been told Banff and Jasper Na­tional Parks are in­cluded.

The Banff Springs will im­ple­ment pro­to­cols which, in ad­di­tion to limited ac­cess to the fa­cil­ity, will in­clude only one door for vis­i­tors to en­ter and exit through, tem­per­a­ture checks at check-in, and gift bas­kets in rooms with san­i­tiz­ers, wipes and masks.

“We want our cus­tomers to feel very safe … so the pro­to­cols will last un­til health au­thor­i­ties ad­vise dif­fer­ently,” he said, adding once a guest checks out, the room will re­main va­cant for 48 hours. “Then, if the de­mand grows, we’ll just open more of the ho­tel up so we can con­tinue to ac­cept people whilst fol­low­ing those guide­lines.”

In ad­di­tion to the Banff Springs, Chateau Lake Louise and the Jasper Park Lodge, both Fair­mont prop­er­ties, will also open to guests June 1 with sim­i­lar pro­ce­dures in place.

Since clos­ing their doors April 10, Fair­mont Ho­tels & Re­sorts have had to lay off a “huge amount” of staff, which Roberts said he hopes is a short-term move.

“Our hope is that de­mand picks up and we can start to re­call a lot of those col­leagues by July,” he said, adding the Banff Springs will be “ap­pro­pri­ately staffed” as guests are wel­comed back.

Roberts said shut­tle buses from the ho­tel to town will not be run­ning. Ad­di­tion­ally, only one of the Banff Springs’ five restaurant­s will be open and staff will be rec­om­mend­ing guests stock up at the ho­tel’s cafe be­fore head­ing to their rooms.

On Tues­day, the provin­cial gov­ern­ment an­nounced that ho­tels and lodg­ing providers will be al­lowed to keep tourism levies col­lected be­tween March 1 and De­cem­ber 31, which will leave be­tween $16 mil­lion and $27 mil­lion in ex­tra cash for the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor.

In a state­ment, the gov­ern­ment said the move “will help po­si­tion the sec­tor for re­cov­ery.”

“Al­berta’s tourism industry is a key con­trib­u­tor to our econ­omy and it cre­ates jobs and rev­enue that so many com­mu­ni­ties across our prov­ince de­pend on,” said Tanya Fir, Al­berta’s min­is­ter of eco­nomic devel­op­ment, trade and tourism. “We’re com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing industry the support it needs now so that it can re­cover and grow.”

Amounts col­lected be­fore March 1 will con­tinue to be de­ferred un­til Au­gust 31. The state­ment in­cludes a re­minder that ac­com­mo­da­tion providers “are still ex­pected to file re­turns through­out 2020,” and that tourism levy pay­ments will re­sume in 2021.

“We’re very de­pen­dent on Cana­di­ans and very, very de­pen­dent on Al­ber­tans in the ini­tial phases of this re­open­ing,” Roberts said. “We’re ob­vi­ously hop­ing that people would like to get away … and we’ve got some good of­fers to en­cour­age people to restart their lives again.”

GAVIN YOUNG

The his­toric Banff Springs Ho­tel will have a sin­gle en­trance for guests, and gift bas­kets in rooms with san­i­tiz­ers, wipes and masks when it re­opens.

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