Every morning, Chris Drysdale puts on gloves and disinfects the doorknobs of empty rooms.
Barely anyone is staying at the Cloudside Hotel right now. Drysdale, the owner, said he lost all his guests for March and April, as well as many rooms booked through August.
But the hotel is still open, even if the targeted clientele have changed. With tourism essentially dead, Cloudside Hotel has set aside four rooms available to people in need of self-isolation at a negotiable rate.
“We’re not looking to make any money. People [are short] of dollars right now,” said Drysdale. “If someone comes in and offers a price that’s way below our prices, I will give them that. Because they obviously need it and anything we can take is to our benefit at the moment.”
Many accommodators in and around Nelson have closed due COVID-19 travel restrictions that keep tourists, and their dollars, out of town. In the city, Hume Hotel and Best Western Plus, both owned by the Martin Hotel Group, have closed, as has the Savoy Inn, Dancing Bear Inn and North Shore Inn.
Others have opted to stay open — albeit with staff reductions and lowered expectations.
Cathy-Ann Glockner has owned Victoria Falls Guesthouse for a decade. Like Drysdale, she says her bookings through the summer vanished. But she also considers herself lucky.
“There are so many people in worse-off situations than us who are working,” she says. “My husband fortunately still has an income with his business, so we’re not destitute. I know people have lost minimum wage jobs and they don’t have anything.”
Glockner’s focus changed when friends who had been abroad needed a place to self-isolate. Whereas in the past her guests might include skiers in town for the end of the season, now Glockner prepares rooms for people who may be contagious or ill.
“What we have to offer right now is space. It’s not being used, it’s not making us any money, it may as well help some people who can use it.”
Practically that has meant some changes for Glockner and Drysdale.
When a guest leaves Victoria Falls, Glockner closes the room for three days before a cleaner goes in. At Cloudside, Drysdale and one of his staff do a daily disinfection of anything that may have been touched outside rooms.
“People say, oh being nice to guests is the No. 1 priority or maybe even hygiene is No. 1,” said Drysdale. “Since this business started about 14 years ago, our No. 1 priority has always been safety. No. 2 is hygiene. That’s never changed. This is not new for us.”
Bigger changes have been required at Nelson’s largest hotels.
Both the Prestige Lakeside Resort and Prestige Inn Nelson are owned by the same company, Prestige Hotels and Resorts. The Lakeside Resort remains open, but the Prestige Inn has been closed.
A request to interview general manager John Le Bleu was declined by the company, which instead sent the Star a statement from president Terry Schneider.
“Like most businesses in the Nelson area and across the province, Prestige Hotels and Resorts has been hit hard due to the COVID-19 crisis. With the long-term viability of our hotel’s future in mind, last week we made the difficult decision to close our smaller property, the Prestige Inn Nelson.
“However, we continue to operate the Prestige Lakeside Resort Nelson and open its doors to those needing accommodations. Our hearts go out to all local businesses facing the same tough times as us.”
The Adventure Hotel has closed its three restaurants, but its 40 rooms remain available. When the Star spoke with general manager Rob Little, however, just one of those rooms was occupied.
“We’re in this rock and a hard place of wanting to keep people employed but at the same time recognizing this is a major situation,” said Little. “We almost view it as a bit of a social responsibility to make sure there is some accommodation available, because we certainly aren’t profiting off it.”
Little said staff are kept out of occupied rooms and daily maid service has ended. On checkout, the room is quarantined for 48 hours before it is cleaned. The hotel’s restaurants, meanwhile, have begun offering deliveries based off a modified menu.
As a consequence, far fewer people are working at the hotel now. Little said some staff with health considerations voluntarily left, as did others who said they could afford to do so. Seasonal workers, many of whom were already leaving with the end of ski tourism, also planned to leave.
Little said right now the hotel is working to keep employed those he refers to as core staff.
“We’ve been very fortunate over the last however many years doing business in this town. These people helped us get here, so we’re not going to abandon them in this situation,” he said.
“We’re going to work together and figure out how we come out the other side and make sure no one is in a situation of not being able to pay their rent or not being able to feed their family. We’re in that holding pattern and still trying to do some business to make that happen.”