G.M. Karla Silva with the sign at the entrance to the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Chemainus Inn experiences a direct hit from Theatre shutdown

Occupancy down 80 per cent in large part to cancelled bookings

Close ties to the Chemainus Theatre has resulted in a huge vacancy rate at the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chemainus Theatre cancelled the remainder of its 2020 season due to the crisis and with it went an abundance of advance bookings at the largest place for accommodation in Chemainus.

General manager Karla Silva says occupancy is down 80 per cent.

“We mostly cater to corporate right now. They still need to travel and get work done. A few people looking for a mini getaway are coming through.”

Sanitizing and cleaning has taken on an even larger role than before at the hotel.

“Best Western has huge cleaning protocol,” Silva explained.

Changes in the operation necessary for COVID-19 are one thing, but there’s also been a significant reduction in staff from 30 employees down to 12.

“It was over a week period,” said Silva of the 2/3 cut to staffing levels. “It was all in mid-March.

“I took a look at it with the management company and tried to figure out what we needed to run this safely.

“Most of the staff that have stayed on, we’re keeping them averaged at 30 hours per week.”

Once the Theatre announced its complete shutdown, the hotel worked closely with Box Office Manager Andrea Starr on the massive cancellation of bookings.

“It definitely was a shock,” said Silva. “I would have to say 50 to 60 per cent of our business comes from the Theatre guests.

“The Theatre did the majority of the contacting of the guests. We coordinated with them on cancelling.”

A few guests who were booked are still coming to stay without the theatre being open and others in the region are looking at enjoying a ‘Staycation’ that’s becoming part of the new normal for so many.

“Buy local, shop local,” Silva stressed. “I think there’s been a whole renewal of a sense of community and supporting everybody back and forth.”

The installation of plexi-glass, sanitization, and social distancing measures are creating a whole new manual of tasks for the industry. “There’s a lot of navigating,” conceded Silva.

Challenging times for the head of pantry include how to safely serve a plate of breakfast with little or no contact with a guest.

The gym and pool areas at the hotel are not open yet, but Silva expects that will happen soon for day use guests as well.

“We’re hoping the middle of June and it’s going to look a lot different than it used to be.”

In the rooms, there are no pens, paper and minimal accents, with limited services.

“It’s bare bones,” Silva pointed out. “The things we’ve had to remove out of the rooms, there’s only two pillows on the beds, there’s no decorative pillows. It’s the new normal.”

In working closely with the management company, “we are just trying to take it one day at a time, keep our head above water,” said Silva.

The way she conducts her job is different every day and people in so many industries are experiencing the same thing.

“I’m like other people, what am I going to deal with and how am I going to deal with it?” Silva pondered.

“I just think people need to be respectful of one another – be kind and be patient.”

Patience will certainly be a virtue at the hotel for Silva and her staff until some sense of normalcy returns.

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