How has COVID-19 impacted the company’s operations?
Of course, it was devastating. Early on, we dove into planning for the worst-case scenario, which would have been closing the doors of all seven of our hotels, but at the same time, the team stayed positive and worked fast and furiously to find ways to keep our doors open and limit the amount of layoffs. We have worked so hard building the most awesome team; we didn’t want to lose them.
How has it impacted staffing?
Instead of closing our doors and laying off 85 per cent of staff, we were able to keep our doors open and only lay off about 40 per cent. With the wage subsidy, we have now been able to hire back a lot of those laid-off staff. While our hotels are still running at 50-per-cent occupancy, we have more staff than the hotel needs, so we’re deploying staff as volunteers with the United Way…It’s a great opportunity for Accent Inns to be there for the community and it makes our staff feel good, too.
Unlike most hotels, instead of laying-off our sales staff, we activated them. We identified areas where we could still get business and worked hard to make it happen. We had to get creative and come together as a team. I now feel closer than ever to my Accent Inns and Hotel Zed family. Our ties to each other have never been stronger.
What new company-or property-level initiatives have been put in place as a result of the crisis?
For Accent Inns, we were the first in our market to offer frontline workers who wanted to self-isolate a rock-bottom rate. We quickly received a lot of press around it and, as soon as we did, our phones just started lighting up with members of the community who wanted to pay for a night’s stay for a frontline worker. We acted quickly to partner with the United Way of Greater Victoria to establish a Hotels for Frontline Workers Fund, under its ‘Local-Love’ campaign, to raise money for people affected by the pandemic. It was heartwarming to see our community wrap their loving arms around these workers. So far, we’ve been able to cover about 1,500 room nights for frontline workers around B.C.
For Hotel Zed, instead of selling hotel rooms, we started selling self-contained office spaces for people who needed a quiet space when working from home, with kids and pets and distractions, was just too much.
What community and/or team support initiatives have been introduced?
For Hotel Zed, we’ve started doing Hotel Zed Parade Parties in the community, for free. We have these super cool, bright vintage [Volkswagen] shuttle buses that were just parked in our lots; we thought we should put them to good use to brighten up the day of people celebrating birthdays during this crisis. This also gives are staff something fun to do that keeps them energized and feeling good, so it is a win-win.
What are the company’s plans for recovery post-COVID-19?
We have forged a partnership with Variety – The Children’s Charity and Accent Inns whereby, for stays May through August, guests can choose to get 25-per-cent off or donate that 25 per cent to Variety. This was inspired by an email sent from Variety’s board chair, Kenton Boston, saying Variety families are in desperate need of help right now. Given our longstanding partnership with Variety, we knew Accent Inns could step up for them now.