When COVID-19 first surfaced in Canada in March 2020, Chris Perna, GM of the 283-room Hilton Vancouver Metrotown, was deeply ensconced in a multi-million-dollar renovation. “We were actually in the midst of breaking up our lobby floor when the pandemic hit. I went from daily discussions with our general contractor over timelines and working around hotel and banquet-floor occupancy to basically giving them the keys and saying ‘it’s all yours – do as you wish.’”

The pandemic has turned the 40-year-old native of Hope, B.C.’s world upside down. “COVID-19 has decimated our business. Unfortunately, we’ve had to lay off many of our associates as a result. Our business is based on volume – if there’s no volume, there are no hours.” Prior to the pandemic, the hotel had a complement of 200 associates. Today, that’s been whittled down to 30.
With the support of Hilton Hotels and the hotel’s management company, Crescent Hotels and Resorts, “We were able to quickly pivot and put in place protocols and operating procedures to ensure we had all the tools and resources available to train and educate our staff and provide confidence to our customers in the measures we were taking to keep everyone safe.”

The hotel has “implemented mask wearing at the property for all guests and associates; heightened cleaning and sanitation protocols for guestrooms and meeting spaces and included several sanitization stations throughout the property. Signage is everywhere indicating physical-distancing protocols in all spaces and we’ve implemented protocols in seat spacing, and service standards in our restaurant.”

Still, despite the measures, COVID’s impact is clear – occupancy is down by more than 90 per cent and there’s been a 70 per cent decline in ADR and RevPAR. “It’s difficult to set plans for the next year. However, the focus is to pivot to new opportunities as well, using this time to re-visit and re-vamp our operations on all fronts (rooms, food and beverage, et cetera) for when guests are ready for us again. We have had many customers directly come to us or comment through our surveys on how happy they are to see how seriously we are taking COVID-19 and how clean the property is.”

While the pandemic has been devastating, it’s also given Perna a deeper appreciation for life, family and friends. “We may not always agree or see eye to eye – and that’s perfectly fine – but it’s essential we look after each other and appreciate each other every day, as we’re all in this together.”


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