REAL ESTATE: Recreating the “Guest Experience”

The hospitality and recreation industry should embrace changes, Freddy Marks says

“Safety in numbers” has been a long-believed group protection theory that gave us comfort. This adage no longer applies to our post-COVID existence. Large groups or gatherings are now to be avoided, so how does one run a COVID compliant accommodation business that remains profitable?

The tourism and hospitality industry, which saw record numbers of international guests in 2019, has had to reevaluate and reinvent themselves, after seeing their long term mainstay of international clientele unable to travel to Canada. Many tourism dependant businesses are unable to operate because the distancing requirements are not feasible for that particular activity. Even when our borders re-open, the large group components and close proximity spaces of cruise ships and tour bus travel has totally lost its safety and appeal. The time has come to reinvent how we showcase beautiful B.C. and recreate the individual guest experience.

Staying open and providing a COVID-19-free, safe environment for employees and customers has become the main priority of all commercial businesses. After the stay-at-home and travel restrictions were relaxed for B.C. in late June, hundreds of thousands of cabin-fevered residents began trying to salvage their summer vacation plans. With travel outside the province not an option, people are seeking local holiday escapes with rural commercial tourism accommodations, places that allow them privacy, safety and an incredible individual guest experience that they can’t get anywhere else.

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Guests want to be able to roam outside in private spaces, walk in the forest, view wildlife, hike and ride on remote trails and take part in memory-making experiences. A remote resort with campsites on a lake that has only a handful of guests is now first choice over a crowded provincial park with 100 sites, one beach and shared washhouse facilities. Isolation of guests from each other, privacy dividers, private washroom facilities, strict cleaning regimes and taking the time to provide an exceptional guest experience for each and every person is the new winning strategy.

B.C. has more remote and private places to escape to than anywhere else in western Canada. Our many lodges, lakeside resorts, B&B’s and tourism-approved accommodations across the province are making fast changes to their operations indoors and out. Yes, the industry needs an immediate infusion of assistance which will allow operators the opportunity to adapt and reinvent the unique experiences guest now want. On July 21, the B.C. Tourism Industry submitted a proposal request for $680 million in recovery stimulus assistance to the provincial government. Tourism plays a major role in B.C.’s economy and supports many spin-off jobs in our communities. Even though our international guests could not arrive, right now, B.C.’s highways are teeming with resident travelers in SUV’s, trucks and campers and RVs all looking to find a place to truly let their guard down and relax. Vacationing in your own backyard is amazing when you live in one of the most amazingly beautiful places on the planet, and with so many choices, there are experiences affordable by all.

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Transforming commercial accommodation properties is essential to our economy, and how we choose our travel experiences has dramatically changed. The roadside food truck with view parking is a new safe experience over indoor sit-down restaurants. RV campsites with full hook-ups allow for guests to take care of all their own needs within their own recreational units and enjoy the activities they feel safe taking part in. You are much likelier to rent singles kayaks to explore a lake than go on a charter boat with other guests. Outdoor small-group activities like yoga by the lakeshore, forest trails with private bird watching blinds to sit in, or ATVing on remote trails. Guests crave outdoor pleasures that were once taken for granted, and operators will need to explore and make changes to provide a more personal and individual guest experience. Even if we see a second wave of virus and again experience lock down measures, it is very apparent that small unique guest accommodation properties will be highly sought after destinations into the future of our new norm.

Resort accommodation ownership is a highly sought after lifestyle that offers so many perks including a great outdoor lifestyle with flexibility to their own pursuits. Operators are being challenged to keep a balance between, profit, turnaround and guest safety. One should not shy away from this type of a lifestyle career, instead, embrace the new norm as it is here to stay, and recreate the experiences that guest want, to remain a sought-after profitable operation. Accommodation owners are passionate about their properties, and have a vision of the types of guest experiences and activities that they want to offer. They must now adapt those visions to put the individual guest experience top of mind and actively promote their new policies to ensure that potential guests know that you have thought of everything, and taken the stress out of staying away from home.

Enjoy the summer sunshine and stay safe.

Freddy Marks, together with his daughter Linda Marks, runs Agassiz’s 3A Group Sutton Showcase Realty. He has been a Realtor in Canada and Germany for more than 30 years, and currently lives in Harrison Hot Springs.

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Freddy Marks together with his daughter Linda Marks, runs Agassiz’s 3A Group Sutton Showcase Realty. He has been a Realtor in Canada and Germany for more than 30 years, and currently lives in Harrison Hot Springs. (Contributed Photo/Freddy Marks)

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