BANFF – One of Banff's major tourism operators is using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to hire back hundreds of staff laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pursuit announced beginning Friday (April 24), it would return 357 staff to work with its operations based in Banff, Jasper, Canmore and Vancouver.
Banff Jasper Collection president Dave McKenna said he is thrilled to be able to bring local staff back onto payroll with the company.
"Now that we are in the wonderful position of having government programs in place, they are very much helping our staff and allowing us to start to re-animate and start to bring some people back," McKenna said.
"We are thrilled because we see this as a new beginning. We haven't really turned the corner yet, but we have stopped shutting down and maybe started the process to [reopen]."
Pursuit operates attractions, hotels and eating establishments in Alberta and B.C. like the Banff Gondola, Mount Royal Hotel on Banff Avenue, Lake Minnewanka boat tours, Maligne Lake Cruise and the Columbia Icefield Adventure.
As travel related restrictions and physical distancing measures were instituted in March, the company suspended operations and more than 80 per cent of its staff – 725 employees – received temporary layoff notices between March 13 and April 10.
Those returning to work include staff in marketing, people and culture, sales and information technology departments, as well as front-line staff who will be in modified positions until operations resume. The Bow Valley specifically will see 222 Pursuit staff return to work as a result of the announcement.
“Throughout the duration of this global health crisis our team has shown outstanding understanding, compassion and solidarity across the organization," said Pursuit's president David Barry in a press release.
"From implementing volunteer-driven community food programs to ensuring our staff have access to development training and subsidized housing when needed, we will continue to do everything we can to move ahead as a team. This also includes actively working to participate in government initiatives such as CEWS.
“The Canadian government has been incredibly proactive in support of the hospitality industry and we are grateful for their leadership.”
The wage subsidy provides businesses with 75 per cent of an employee's pay, capped at $58,700 annually, for those laid off as a result of COVID-19.
In March, as the company was responding to the COVID-19 public health crisis, McKenna said the biggest challenge was finding safe and secure environments for its staff members as quickly as possible.
"The threat of pandemic coming into Alberta was ramping up so quickly that our No. 1 concern was for our teammates and staff and to make sure we could get them a good place as soon as possible," McKenna said.
"We immediately took to providing rent relief for anyone living in our staff accommodation. Also, our culinary team quickly ramped up a way to provide meals for some of our staff members that were already self-isolating."
The at-cost, prepared meal program was so popular, it was expanded to be available to the community as of Friday (April 24).
Easy Eats is run by a team of volunteers led by Sky Bistro Chef Scott Hergott and offers a selection of small and large meal options for pickup at the Elk + Avenue restaurant Fridays on a first-come, first-served basis.
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