Today, we’re sitting down with tour operators Cedric Towers and Tammy Taylor to learn about the challenges Vancouver Whale Watch has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Task Force: Take us through your businesses’ journey so far?
Vancouver Whale Watch: In March, Vancouver Whale Watch was working hard to ramp everything up to start our tours as normal for April 1. About mid-March, we had to suspend our tours until further notice. Everything was on pause from thereon out. However, our office was busy with cancellation requests coming in daily, with thousands of dollars being refunded weekly. Vancouver Whale Watch is a seasonal business that relies on cashflow the seven months out of the year to keep the business operational year-round.
TF: What steps have you taken so far to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?
VWW: We applied for the business loan, the wage subsidy program and the rent subsidy when the programs became available. We didn’t have any issues with these programs, however the rent subsidy was a bit of a challenge. We’ve worked hard on our COVID-19 Safety Plan and have implemented new safety procedures and best practices around COVID-19. One measure includes reducing the capacity of each sailing to only 50 per cent, which means our guests will have more space to themselves on each vessel, as well as more opportunities to get closer to the whales on their trips out.
TF: How did you deal with employee morale?
VWW: We’ve been sending out frequent emails to keep our staff updated with our plans and letting everyone know we’re here fort them if they need anything, or just need to talk about any concerns. We’ve sent a few feel-good and funny videos to brighten up our staffs’ days. We have also asked our staff to let us know if they’ve received government assistance or not, and what their work availability was moving forward.
TF: What are your restart plans?
VWW: Our plan is to start our tours July 1 and we are very excited about that and have bookings for this whole week. We will be running our tours with reduced capacity and will be following the guidelines on our vessels as well. Our COVID-19 Safety Plan is public and is accessible on our website, www.vancouverwhalewatch.com. We have an announcement on our website for our start date on July 1, as well as on our social media and through marketing. We have signage in our office, on our shuttle buses, and on our vessels. We also have a plan for single-use items, such as masks and gloves, which will be made available to our guests and staff should they not have their own, though we recommend people bring their own supplies if they’re able. We’re very much looking forward to starting our season!