Businesses in Tofino cautiously re-open amid COVID-19

Melissa Renwick, June 7, 2020

Directional signs are taped to the floor within the House of Himwitsa Native Art Gallery, in Tofino, on Thursday, June 4. (Melissa Renwick photo)

Tofino, BC — 

Lewis George was one of the first to close down his business operations in Tofino amid growing fears of COVID-19.

The Hereditary Chief of Ahousaht swiftly made the call on March 17 when one of his employees showed up to work sick.

After months of uncertainty of when businesses would be able to re-open safely again, the storeowner welcomed customers back on June 1.

“It’s been pretty quiet – really, really quiet,” said George. “It’s a forecast of what may be.”

With a slew of new safety measures in place, George and his wife, Cathy, are operating cautiously to ensure that their staff and visitors are kept safe.

Directional signs mark the route within the business and they are limiting occupancy to six people at a time. Plexi-glass has been installed in front of the gallery’s registers and a sanitization station has been placed at the store’s entrance.

The business took it one step further by creating a document to record customer’s contact details upon entry. While there have been a few who have resisted providing their personal details, George said it’s the most effective way of being able to contact visitors should an outbreak occur.

“The big worry is asymptomatic people that are carrying the virus,” he said.

Following the advice from the Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and through conversations with the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, George said that they are only accepting reservations for the Himwitsa Lodge from B.C. residents at this time.

“We’re not the only business that’s being affected,” he said. “And I really feel bad about those businesses that are going under that’ll never come back.”

Although hotels are deemed an essential service, The Best Western Tin Wis temporarily closed its doors in late-March out of respect to the local community.

“It is a sensitive area with limited resources,“ said general manager Jared Deaton.

Like most businesses in town, The Best Western Tin Wis welcomed their first guests at the resort on June 1.

“It does feel good to have a little bit more life here at the resort and bringing our staff back with the right protocols,” said Deaton.

While he said that business is still very slow, he remains optimistic that the resort will get by through the outpour of calls and inquiries from prospective guests.

In order to keep staff and guests safe, the resort has established a maximum of 50 per cent threshold to allow 48 hours to pass after a guest has checked out for the room to be turned into a vacant, clean room. All marketing campaigns outside of B.C. have ceased and they’ve transitioned to touchless check-in and payment processes. Other amenities, like the hot tub, are closed until July.

“We’re in very uncertain times,” said George, who fears that COVID-19 may never go away.

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