A 1970s Kingswood Estate Chevy sits in front of Tofino’s Hotel Zed that opened Aug. 27 and comes equip with 70s-themed decor. (Submitted photo)
Driving into Tofino now looks a little brighter with the addition of Hotel Zed—a colourful new accommodation equiped with 70s-themed décor, a disco room and a bike path running through the front lobby.
Located at 1258 Pacific Rim Hwy, formerly Jamie’s Rainforest Inn, Tofino’s Hotel Zed is the third Hotel Zed for the company, with the other two in Victoria and Kelowna.
A brand-new building constructed on the property, offering 58 guest rooms, opened on Aug. 27. Once renovations are complete on the former Jamie’s Rainforest Inn there will be 91 rooms available.
As businesses navigate how to safely operate and welcome guests during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no different for the staff at Hotel Zed.
“My first day of work was March 9 and I got a two-day tour of the head office, and then basically everything shut down; so I spent the next six months working from home without really any contact with the company or the people, so it was all really Zoom calls,” said Hotel Zed general manager and Tofino councillor Britt Chalmers. “We had daily meetings going over COVID procedures and the hotels that stayed open were really able to perfect them and grow with them.”
Victoria’s Hotel Zed was able to stay open throughout the pandemic and offered essential service workers who didn’t feel safe staying at their homes accommodation for weeks at a cost of $59. Donations from the public helped Hotel Zed offer the lower prices that basically just covered operating costs, Chalmers said.
“This company has very strong values that they live by,” Chalmers said. “Our values are make things better, have each other’s backs, have fun and be yourself. Every decision that I’ve seen made since I started - even with the essential workers - is how can we make things better, how can we help people. There’s a lot of that that I think this town will benefit from.”
Another way Hotel Zed is helping the community in which they operate is through participation in the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s Tribal Parks Allies Program that supports the First Nation’s safety precautions and procedures amidst COVID-19.
“We’re the first large contributors to the Tribal Parks Alliance, which I think is incredible,” Chalmers said. “Supporting a group that wants to clean up the streams, protect the environment, steward the land…I think it’s important for us to balance out the impact we have.”
The Tribal Parks Allies Program funds the Tla-o-qui-aht’s Guardians and other social programs integral to improving and maintaining community health. So far, 37 businesses in Tofino participate in the program and contribute one per cent of their sales to the First Nation.
Chalmers said participating in the Tribal Parks Allies Program was important to her personally as she sees the impact a large amount of tourists can have on the West Coast community.
“I think it’s the right thing to do as we see tourism grow in Tofino and the area,” Chalmers said. “Tourism does have an environmental impact and the more it grows, the bigger the impact is… I think it’s important for us to balance out the impact we have.”
In an Aug. 31 press release, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation thanked their existing 37 members with the Tribal Parks Allies Program, but put out another call for more businesses operating within their territories to get on board.
“Increasing daily diagnosis of COVID-19 in B.C. and ongoing peak tourism conditions have intensified the risk to our communities,” states the press release. “It is clear that the virus is here to stay, and that a long-term solution is needed immediately.”
The press release goes on to say that if a sustainable solution cannot be achieved by engaging widespread participation in the Tribal Parks Allies program, “it will not be possible for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to continue welcoming guests into our Tribal Parks.”
“The safety of our community members cannot continue to be compromised by a tourism economy which does not contribute to crucial community services like our Emergency Operations Centre and Tribal Parks Guardians,” states the release.
Chalmers said she believes tourists often look for ways to contribute to nature and the environment when they travel.
“That’s ecotourism,” she said.
Other unique features of Hotel Zed include an arcade room (which is a work in progress) and a psychic room where a local woman will do readings.
“It’s also open if there’s any local tarot readers that want to come down and use the space, they’re more than welcome to,” Chalmers said.
A disco room with an LED dance floor, a mini golf course and a restaurant are also in the works.