When it was clear that the effects of COVID-19 pandemic would devastate the hospitality industry in Canmore, the team at Tourism Canmore Kananaskis jumped into action to support their community.
As many hotels, restaurants, and tourism operators closed shop overnight, they needed to act quickly. The tourism industry employs a large portion of the population in Canmore and these workers, who are often far from home, contribute to the destination’s famous vibrancy. Inspired to support their neighbours, colleagues and friends, the destination marketing organization rallied the community to provide support for those suddenly in need.
Within a matter of days, the team launched Hope for Hospitality, an initiative designed to provide tourism and hospitality workers with prepaid gift cards to help buy groceries. The concept was the brainchild of local businessman, Vijay Domingo. In addition to providing food on the table, local students were engaged to create positive messages of support that were delivered alongside the gift cards. The community has rallied behind the initiative and Tourism Canmore Kananaskis has already raised more than $30,000.
“Canmore has really come together—many of the hotels are either subsidizing, deferring or not charging rent to a lot of their employees that are in staff accommodation,” says Andrew Shepherd, Board Chair of Tourism Canmore Kananaskis and General Manager of the Malcolm Hotel. “So, if we’re able to take care of the roof over their head and give them a little bit of food, then things aren’t as bad.”
Hope for Hospitality isn’t the only program that has stepped up to support the community. Many industry partners in the Bow Valley are providing meals, accommodation and using their resources creatively to ensure the workers vital to the Bow Valley economy are supported through this challenging time. Some notable examples include:
Though the resorts have closed, Fairmont is providing accommodation and regular meals to their employees in the Rockies.
- Banff YWCA has repurposed hotel inventory to support short- and long-term needs of residents and employers.
- Lake Louise Inn is offering short-term accommodation for those in need at a flexible cost.
- The Malcolm Hotel has converted its kitchen into a soup kitchen (Soup for the Soul) and is distributing soup and freshly baked bread to those in need. They are also accepting donations to the Food Bank in exchange for a meal.
- The Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation (created by the founders of Banff Lodging Co.) is creating affordable meal baskets and distributing to those in need.
- Banff Food Rescue was established in 2016 to reduce local food waste by redistributing unused food from restaurants and grocery stores to those in need. The organization is now focused on supporting the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and has increased their food delivery by more than four times.
Recognizing the strength of his community and industry, Shepherd relays a message of hope, “we will get through this together.”
“Unity in the community is the biggest thing, and that’s where Hope for Hospitality comes in.”