Canadian hostels anticipate wave of travelers as restrictions lift and borders reopen

David Barron, owner of City Hostel on Gower Street in downtown St. John’s. The hostel will open its doors on August 15th.

Paul Daly / The Globe and Mail

Behind the clapboards at 8 Gower St. in St. John’s, Inn owner David Barron is busy preparing his first visitors since before the pandemic. It’s been a while and the historic house needs a lick of paint.

“It has been a difficult year,” said Mr. Barron. “We didn’t expect to open until next spring – but the vaccine rollout has been good and regulations are changing. “

Youth hostels are known to offer inexpensive dormitory style accommodation. Usually loud and sometimes with their own bars, they aim to stimulate social interaction, especially among young solo travelers. Many hostels offer shared rooms, sometimes accommodating up to 12 people in single rooms with bunk beds.

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Although some hostels have remained open throughout the pandemic, they have seen their bookings dwindle last year, just ahead of the generally busy summer season. Even domestic travelers have stayed away.

Now, as provinces ease restrictions and international borders are set to reopen, some hostel owners say they are seeing surprisingly high interest in their rooms, even as the number of cases increases in many areas from the country.

Even though Mr Barron’s reopening on August 15 at 50% capacity is happening at short notice, he said he already had reservations for this month.

“It’s not going to be like a normal year, but after being locked up for 16 months I think people want to come out. They want to explore, ”he said. Its inn, located on one of the oldest streets in St. John’s, generally attracts tourists from around the world.

Provincial requirements differ, but in Newfoundland visitors will need to prove they are fully vaccinated or self-isolate until they test negative for COVID-19 before staying at a hostel with facilities communes. Some hostels only offer private rooms, and others install curtains around the beds in the dorms for extra protection. Visitors may be asked to wear masks in shared spaces, but not when sleeping in their dormitories.

“Over 70 percent of our 50 hostels in Canada are now open,” said Shelbey Sy, director of marketing at Hostelling International (HI) Canada, the country’s largest hostel operator. The HI Ottawa Jail hostel, HI Whistler (formerly part of the 2010 Olympic Village) and the historic HI-Quebec hostel, all under the auspices of the organization, are having a busier summer than expected. she declared. She attributes this to the youth hostel demographics.

“We’ve seen this in many other types of downturns. We are doing well because our market is young, independent and a bit more risk averse, ”said Ms. Sy. “They are very resistant.

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Even though Mr Barron’s reopening at 50% capacity is happening at short notice, he said he already has reservations for next month.

The Globe and Mail

Domestic travelers make up a larger proportion of hostel guests than usual, said Marie-Pierre Boissonnault, manager of Canmore Downtown Hostel in Canmore, Alta.

“Canadians who would normally travel to Europe or the south, or who have forever postponed their trips to the Canadian Rockies, all come here now. Quebeckers come to Alberta, and many Ontarians too, ”said Ms. Boissonnault.

Between closing shared rooms and booking fewer guests to ensure enough space in common rooms, she estimates her hostel is at around 35% of capacity, up from 15% last year and 90% normally.

Even as the number of cases increases in Alberta among the unvaccinated, Boissonnault saw an increase in bookings after July 1, when the province moved to Stage 3 of its reopening plan and relaxed the requirements for reopening. indoor masks.

While hostels outside of major city centers see bookings pouring in, some city hostels don’t. Anthony Aarts, the owner of the 115-bed Planet Traveler hostel in Toronto, said it has yet to open.

“Everyone is leaving Toronto, just to get out of town. But for hostels in urban centers, which attract international travelers, it’s a whole different perspective, ”Aarts said.

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Before the pandemic, he said, 90% of his business came from international travelers. In mid-July, the federal government announced its intention to allow inbound travel from fully vaccinated Americans on August 9 and other international travelers on September 7. Some reservations, Mr. Aarts said, are starting to pile up – although it will need to hit 40 percent capacity just to pay the bills.

Ms. Boissonnault hopes the reopening of the border will extend its busy season until fall.

“Normally October tends to be very quiet and November is dead. This year, I hope October will be similar to a normal September, because Americans will come to see the mountains, ”she said. “Otherwise I’m confident for the Christmas and New Years season. I think it’s going to fill up.

While business may not yet be back to normal, Ms. Boissonnault is just happy to welcome visitors back to Canmore.

“They come in, we talk to them and smile, and they smile back at us. It’s like, ‘Wow. I hadn’t seen this in a while.

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About John McTaggart

John McTaggart

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