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COVID-19: Restaurants, Your BDMs And Lots More

Canadian BDMs have a message for agents:

Sit back, relax and feel the glow because your BDMs across Canada have a message for travel agents here.

BDMs from 15 supplier companies — Transat, Uplift, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Cunard, NCL, Hurtigruten, WestJet, Carnival, Insight, Canlink, Goway, Palace Resorts and Trafalgar — joined forces to thank agents for their support during these difficult times and make it clear that they’re there for them now and when the crisis has passed.

And each of the BDMs also told agents to stay well, stay safe, stay home … and, of course, to “wash your hands”…

Check out the video… and feel the love…

A Bad Taste: Foodservices industry hit hard by COVID-19

Restaurants Canada estimates that 800,000 foodservice jobs have already been lost nationwide due to COVID-19 and might not return if current conditions continue.

With restaurants now struggling to pay rent and other bills due in April, the national association conducted a survey to shed light on the state of the industry. Responses from foodservice operators across the country have revealed:

  • Four out of five restaurants have laid off employees since March 1.
  • Seven out of 10 foodservice operators will further cut back on staff hours or lay off more employees if conditions do not improve.
  • Nearly one out of 10 restaurants have already closed permanently and another 18% will permanently close within a month if current conditions continue.

Shanna Munro, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada, said: “Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two thirds of our workforce now lost.”

Munro added that: “In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national foodservice association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen.”

Canada’s $93 billion foodservice industry represents 4% of the country’s GDP. If conditions do not improve, Restaurants Canada estimates that foodservice sales will be down nearly $20 billion for the second quarter of 2020.

However, the association has been working with government and industry stakeholders since the COVID-19 crisis began.

David Lefebvre, vice-president, Federal and Quebec for Restaurants Canada, said: “Restaurants have played an essential role during this crisis, but are also uniquely challenged by the impacts of COVID-19. We are encouraged by relief measures introduced so far that have shown the concerns of foodservice are being heard.” Lefebvre continued: “Without the steps already taken, the impacts on our industry would be even more devastating. In this time of crisis, it is reassuring to see governments, at all levels, come to the table with solutions.”

Restaurants Canada continues to be at the table, working with all levels of government to strengthen actions already taken in the following areas to provide foodservice businesses with more immediate protection and relief, as well as help to reopen and rehire:

  • Rent relief: Flexible arrangements are needed from landlords to allow for payment-free periods. Foodservice operators are looking for a coordinated effort led by government, coupled with no-eviction orders to relieve pressure. An injunction on evictions would allow time for governments to bring stakeholders to the table to develop immediate and long-term solutions that will work for all parties involved.
  • Access to working capital: With little-to-no sales revenue coming in for most foodservice businesses, many have already depleted their reserve funds, or soon will. Existing measures may need to be expanded and new solutions continue to be welcomed to ensure restaurants will have enough working capital to reopen their doors once physical distancing rules are lifted.
  • Labour: An expansion of the qualifying conditions and time period for accessing the 75 per cent wage subsidy would help restaurants not only keep workers on payroll but allow those already laid off to be rehired.

Go to www.restaurantscanada.org for more.

Ontario Registrar Offers Advice To Registrants

Last week, the Ontario government provided amendments to Ontario Regulation 26/05 aimed at the reduction of administration and other overhead expenses associated with financial reporting as follows:

  • Replace review engagement report requirement with a Verification Statement for registrants with Ontario gross sales of less than $2 million per year (a TICO form will be provided to registrants).
  • Replace audit report requirement with review engagement report for all registrants with Ontario gross sales of more than $10 million per year.

Although the timing of this burden reduction is reflective of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regulatory amendments with respect to financial documents are not time-limited. The new requirements will apply moving forward.

Below are responses to commonly asked questions relating to the above amendments:

What if a Registrant already completed a Review Engagement or Audit report?

The above amendments are effective March 30, 2020. For the Verification Statement – go to https://tico.ca/files/VerificationStatementfillableFINAL.pdf

Registrants have the option of providing annual financial statements, that meet the requirements of the Regulation for reporting to the Registrar, if they prefer, rather than a Verification Statement.

What if a Registrant already signed an Engagement Letter or is the midst of completing the Review Engagement Report or Audit for year-ends prior to March 30?

TICO suggests reviewing your options with your Licenced Public Accountant (“LPA”) to find the least costly solution to your existing arrangements. This may include reducing the work to providing a Review Engagement Report if sales are over $10 million instead of an Audit; a Notice to Reader, or alternatively, internal financial statements for sales below $2 million per year. There is no change to reporting requirements for Registrants with annual sales between $2 million and $10 million. A Review Engagement Report must be submitted to TICO. 

If this situation is applicable to you, you are encouraged to contact your LPA as soon as possible to discuss your reporting options.

Please note that TICO will not accept requests for refunds of fees expended and appreciates your continued support and understanding.

What if a Registrant’s gross Ontario sales were less than $2 million in the last fiscal year and a Registrant prepares internal financial statements each year. Are they still required to provide a Verification statement?

As noted above, all Registrants with year-ends after March 30, 2020, have the option of providing annual financial statements, that meet the requirements of the Regulation for reporting to the Registrar, if they prefer, rather than a Verification Statement.

If Registrants also prepare accredited financial statements for other reporting requirements, not related to TICO requirements, they are encouraged to submit these additional financial statements along with the Verification Statement.

What is the filing deadline for the Verification Statement?

The filing deadline for the Verification Statement remains the same as the Financial Statement Filing deadline (i.e. three months after the registrant’s fiscal year-end). The Verification Statement can be internally prepared by the Registrant and must be attested to by Registrant/Officer/Director/Partner of the entity.

What if my gross Ontario sales are above $2 million per year?

Registrants with gross Ontario sales over $2 million per year are required to file Review Engagement Reports. All reporting requirements are based on the prior year’s Ontario gross sales reported.

What if my year-end filing is due after March 30th, 2020 and I haven’t started preparing the financial statements?

If your year-end filing is due after March 30th, 2020 the new regulations apply as per the above. For the Verification Statement – go to https://tico.ca/files/VerificationStatementfillableFINAL.pdf

To view the full update to Ontario Regulation 26/05, go to https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r20101?search=101%2F20

Bahamas Paradise Updates Sailing Schedule

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has updated its sailing schedule, cancelling sailings through May 6.

Grand Celebration will resume operations on May 8 – welcoming travellers just in time to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend.

The company suspended sailings because of the COVID 19 pandemic, however, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s updated “Sail with Ease” policy provides an automatic Future Cruise Credit of 125% to two-night cruise and Cruise & Stay guests affected by the extended pause on sailings.

Future Cruise Credits will automatically update in the cruise line’s system, and guests are only required to call customer service to transfer their cruise to any future sailing date through Dec. 31, 2021.

While the cruise line encourages all impacted guests to take advantage of the Future Cruise Credit, those who wish to receive a refund are entitled to 100% of their two-night cruise or Cruise & Stay package price, including taxes, fees, charges, and any pre-paid amenity or package.

To reach Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Customer Service Team, call  800-374-4363. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is the only provider of two-night cruises from Florida to Grand Bahama Island and Nassau, and the originator of the unique Cruise & Stay program, letting travelers extend their Bahamas adventure with a resort stay.

Hurtigruten Extends Temporary Suspension

In response to the continuing global coronavirus outbreak, Hurtigruten is extending its temporary suspension of operations from pole to pole.

“The situation is affecting virtually everyone in one way or another. Hurtigruten is no exception. This is a setback for us, for the local communities we work with and for our guests. But the setback is only temporarily” said Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam.

While Hurtigruten has not had any confirmed or suspected cases on any ships, with the latest development, including local and global travel restrictions and advisories, it has decided to extend the temporary suspension period:

  • All Hurtigruten expedition cruises will be suspended until May 12. In addition to already cancelled cruises, this includes the MS Fridtjof Nansen’s departure from Hamburg, Germany April 29 as well as MS Spitsbergen’s departure from Longyearbyen May 6.
  • In addition, Hurtigruten’s Alaska expedition cruise season will be postponed to July due to new travel restrictions from Canadian authorities. This means that the May 17, May 31, Jun 12, Jun 24 and July 1 MS Roald Amundsen Alaska departures unfortunately will be cancelled.
  • Operations on the Norwegian coast will be suspended through May 20. As of now, the first scheduled round trip departure from Bergen will be on May 21.

And in agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of Transport, Hurtigruten has deployed two ships in an amended domestic schedule in order to bring critical supplies and goods to local Norwegian communities hit hard by travel restrictions.

Skjeldam said: “Seeing our ships laying idle for a prolonged period of time instead of exploring is difficult. These are extraordinary and emotional times for the entire Hurtigruten team. But I firmly believe it is the only responsible decision in the extraordinary crisis the world is currently facing.”

Hurtigruten has introduced a flexible rebooking policy. Guests who have their voyages cancelled because of the temporary suspension of operations are offered a Hurtigruten Future Cruise Voucher in the amount of 125% of amounts paid (including fees).

They will also get a 10% discount on any future Hurtigruten cruise – Expedition or Norwegian Coast – from July 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021.

Even though they are not affected by the temporary suspension of operations, guests booked on voyages through Sept. 30, 2020 are offered rebooking, without any rebooking fee and a future discount of 10%, to any future Hurtigruten cruise – Expedition or Norwegian Coastal – for departures between July 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021.

For full policy and rebooking options, go to https://global.hurtigruten.com/practical-information/coronavirus-update/ .

Etihad Testing Health Screening Technology

Etihad Airways will partner with Australian company Elenium Automation to trial new technology which allows self-service devices at airports to be used to help identify travellers with medical conditions, potentially including the early stages of COVID-19.

It will be the first airline to trial the technology, which can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of any person using an airport touchpoint such as a check-in or information kiosk, a bag drop facility, a security point or immigration gate.

The Elenium system will automatically suspend the self-service check-in or bag drop process if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of illness. It will then divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on site, who can make further assessments and manage travellers as appropriate.

In partnership with Amazon Web Services, Elenium has also developed ‘hands free’ technologies that enable touchless use of self-service devices through voice recognition, further minimizing the potential of any viral or bacterial transmission.

Etihad will initially trial the monitoring technology at its hub airport in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, at the end of April and throughout May 2020, initially with a range of volunteers, and, as flights resume, outbound passengers.

Hilton, American Express Donating Rooms

Hilton and American Express — in partnership with Hilton’s ownership community — will donate up to 1 million hotel room nights across the United States to frontline medical professionals leading the fight against COVID-19.

Beginning next week, Hilton and American Express will make rooms available without charge to doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics and other frontline medical staff who need a place to sleep, recharge or isolate from their families through the end of May.

Initially, Hilton is working with 10 associations who collectively represent more than 1 million healthcare workers to provide access to the program, designed to support individuals who would otherwise have to spend their own money on accommodations.

Hilton’s president and CEO, Christopher J. Nassetta said: “During this crisis, we have seen so many examples of medical professionals working in the most challenging circumstances, sacrificing their own needs for the greater good. They truly are heroes. We are honored to extend our Hilton hospitality to them during this difficult time.”

American Express, Hilton’s long-standing strategic partner, is investing alongside Hilton in the donation of the hotel rooms, which will be provided at or below cost by Hilton’s network of independent owners and franchisees.

Said American Express chairman and CEO, Stephen J. Squeri: “Our medical workers who are courageously and selflessly serving on the frontlines in the coronavirus crisis represent the best of who we are. We’re honoured to support this initiative with our longtime partner, Hilton, to provide the heroes in our communities a place to rest, recharge and help keep their loved ones safe during this time.”

Rooms will be available across a variety of Hilton brands, including Hampton by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, DoubleTree by Hilton and others. Hotels will be staffed by team members who have received additional training on relevant health and safety measures to safeguard their own and their guests’ well-being.

Hotel rooms and common areas will continue to be sanitized using industrial grade cleaners and updated cleaning protocols. In some high-demand locations, room availability may be limited at times.

Nassetta credited owners from Hilton’s portfolio for joining the effort. “Across the United States, owners of Hilton hotels of every brand are eager to support their communities and be part of the solution. They have been instrumental in making this response possible.”

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