By Maria Cordova
The tourism industry is certainly one of the industries most affected by COVID-19. One of our members, the Fredericton Delta Hotel, experienced extreme hardship when the pandemic hit. Sara Holoyke, the general manager of the hotel, recalls how the crisis hit unexpectedly. The week began with a big event in the hotel, and then she started hearing about cancellations of big events such as the NBA and the NHL. “Literally by the Friday, I had my leadership team coming to discuss closing the hotel for the first time in 27 years and laying off over a hundred and sixty employees.”
Restrictions imposed during COVID-19 and the closing of the borders, meant that the Delta could not operate like a conference hotel anymore. The hotel lost all of its national and regional business. In order to weather the storm, Holoyke and her team had to completely redefine the way the hotel was branded. With the bubble in place, they wanted New Brunswickers to visit Fredericton and stay at the Delta. There was an opportunity to provide them with a vacation experience that they might have otherwise had. During a brainstorming session, they took inspiration from their previous experiences travelling to all-inclusive hotels in the Caribbean, and decided to reposition themselves as a resort.
The switch involved many creative decisions. Since people could not dine in at their restaurants, they launched the Driveway Drive In. The hotel did not need a bellman anymore, but he had talents, so they hired him as a full time DJ instead. They partnered with local businesses to offer bike rentals and boat cruise packages. Holoyke and her team decided to launch a Resort Report, outlining all the activities the hotel offers by the hour, just like in a cruise ship. They offer Zumba, pool Zumba, drink tastings, ice cream tastings, discounts for shopping in their gift shop, all-inclusive alcohol packages, and different spa treatments.
The Delta is a prime example of the resilience of Fredericton businesses. As Holoyke mentioned “this is an example of how the world could change immediately and you need to start thinking differently. You need to utilize your resources. You need to utilize partnerships.” She feels fortunate to be well supported by the community, the businesses in Fredericton, and the Chamber of Commerce. Holoyke commends Krista and the Chamber’s team for all of the communication that they “pumped out”, especially during the first month. “It was so overwhelming, we were so busy with operating and trying to figure out what to; yet they assisted us in communicating with our employees and making sure that they were fully aware of the options they had.”
Even though Holoyke thinks the pandemic will affect the tourism industry in the long run, she remains positive about the future and hopeful that things will return to normal.