As B.C. beings to reopen SPR and TSP make plans for summer
With B.C.’s plan to cautiously reopen in phases now underway, Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) is working toward the goal of an early July opening with more confidence. Traditionally the resort begins summer operations in late June, including chairlift accessed biking and hiking, as well as golf and other activities.
Aidan Kelly, chief marketing officer for SPR, said the announcement of the phased provincial opening didn’t change much other than giving the company more certainty about their timing. Hotels and resorts are currently listed under Phase 3 of the B.C. government’s plan. Phase 2 is set to begin mid-May and includes other village amenities such as restaurants.
However, what this summer might offer guests and exactly how it will happen is not yet clear. Neither is the volume of guests the village can anticipate.
“We don’t know exactly what yet,” said Kelly. “We’re looking through the protocols in terms of what it is going to mean for capacity in terms of chairlift rides and how do you manage social distancing and what products make sense and what products don’t.”
Kelly explained they are less likely to offer products that would be hard to distance staff and guests, for example the bungee trampoline and Mountain Cross Carts.
“We’re leaning towards those just won’t be able to operate this summer, there’s not a super safe way that we’re comfortable with to do that yet so we’re still working on it. But we’re very confident and fully planning for some type of hiking product, some type of bike product and a golf product…so golf, mountain biking and hiking are looking really good for early July.”
Preparing for those activities means implementing new operational protocols that protect both guests and staff, something Kelly said is being worked on in partnership with other resorts and industry members.
“We’re all competitors but we’re also partners. If one has figured out an idea for something they’re sharing…everybody is helping each other out, that’s the only way we’ll get through.”
Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP) president Arlene Schieven said they’re also in almost daily contact with their industry organizations in order to plan for potential summer offerings and how they can support Sun Peaks’ businesses.
“These partnerships have been key and very beneficial,” she said. “It’s information sharing on all levels.”
During a May 11 virtual meeting, TSP spoke with accommodation providers, restaurateurs and those who own a business with a storefront in Sun Peaks, to better understand their current feelings as well as to facilitate sharing information and ideas between businesses.
“It’s all still fairly new and they’re working to figure it out,” Scheiven said. “It’s individual to each business but it’s good to talk together. The overall goal was to have most open again in July with modified openings.”
Scheiven said owners are working with SPR to establish consistent signage to inform guests on safety protocols throughout the village.
While any large event, such as the 5K Foam Fest or Retro Weekend, won’t take place this summer due to restrictions on gathering sizes, Scheiven said as TSP recalls staff who were laid off due to the pandemic they will look at other ways of animating the village.
She said she believes the community is fairly well positioned for the summer, as around two thirds of regular summer business is regional and the industry expects most travellers will stay somewhat close to home.
Previous marketing messaging about Sun Peaks’ open spaces and lack of crowds also stands to benefit the village, she said, as people are hesitant to be in busy public spaces.
While TSP works on creating a flexible and hyper local marketing plan to put in place for the summer, SPR is beginning to recall staff and hire for seasonal positions.
“In a normal year we’d have a bunch of people working already,” Kelly said. “We’re in the process of recalling staff for the summer and posting for seasonal staff. At some point we have to get back to work even if it’s with fewer staff.”
Once they have staff and best practices in place, Kelly said the season will be a good practice run for winter.
“It will be a couple of things, number one it’s much more manageable and number two its also a really good test run for how to efficiently and safely run your business in advance of whatever the world might look like for next winter as well.”