In June, as part of the Canadian Business Resilience Network campaign, we, with the generosity of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), gave 62 small Canadian businesses from coast to coast to coast $10,000 Small Business Relief Fund grants to help recovery efforts during these unprecedented times. Since then, grant recipients have been able to use the grant money to make changes that will help their business stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the story of Kwa’lilas Hotel from Port Hardy, British Columbia.
Kwa’lilas Hotel is a mid-size hotel of 85 rooms on North Vancouver Island. The hotel is entirely Indigenous owned.
“We are very grateful for all the support that has come through,” said Paul Cox. “We are very privileged and honoured to be chosen for the grant. The grant money has been instrumental in us re-pivoting. The biggest change that it made for us was being able to fund the PPE that we required, allowing us to create a safe environment.”
With the help of the grant money, Kwa’lilas Hotel has been able to stay open throughout the pandemic and cater to essential workers. The hotel has also provided employees with training surrounding customer service, leadership development and training around COVID.
“We were one of the first restaurants to reopen in town, and the grant helped us get signage and PPE ready,” explained Cox.
As a part of staff training, Kwa’lilas Hotel was able to ensure its restaurant was following COVID-19 restrictions, and clients could be seated safely and the kitchen could be socially distanced.
“We were able to build a deck for outdoor seating and a café so people can grab and go,” shared Cox. “All of this would not have been possible without this pause in the air and the ability to spend human resources time and effort, which the grant has helped towards.”
An effort Kwa’lilas Hotel has been taking on is encouraging people to explore their own backyard.
“One of the unique situations with tourism compared to other businesses is that we rely heavily on bookings that were made a year in advance,” said Cox. “We saw all of our European bookings fall away this year. So it allowed us to spend more time with staff and focus our marketing efforts on attracting local tourism.”
Kwa’lilas Hotel has been seeing a surge of interest from its local community, especially those looking to get out amid the pandemic. The hotel has been there to offer them a safe and local getaway.
“For next year, we have reimagined a more Indigenous tourism experience,” explained Cox. “We were able to set up a cultural committee. We are hopeful and optimistic about next year’s tourism, and COVID has allowed us this time to really build on that.”