With the halt of travel and the closure of our offices, we want to share an update on what our team has been up to in and out of the office over the past few weeks.
With over 48 years in business, the Wells Gray Tours team has seen previous business interruptions from events like 9/11, economic downturns, political unrest, and natural disasters. Even so, the current situation is challenging. We typically run about 95 tours per year, and to date we have had to cancel or postpone 18 tours as a result of COVID-19. Future bookings are down to a trickle, but all 28 staff are still working and being paid. Wells Gray Tours President and Owner, Roland Neave, is staying positive. Knowing how vulnerable the industry is to world crises after the economic downturn in 2008, Roland started a rainy-day fund to support the company through future crises. He says “It is this that is now being tapped to pay our employees. I am lucky to work with such a great group of individuals and it was very important to me to be able to keep them on when the next downturn happened.”
Our offices are now closed and most of our staff are working from home. We are busy keeping our clients updated on cancelled tours and trying to reschedule all of these tours for future dates. We are still answering the phones and taking new bookings, so don’t hesitate to call any of our offices.
Tour Directors who would normally be travelling with their groups are also being paid and are keeping busy by engaging with customers in creative ways. One of our Tour Directors, Pat, was scheduled to leave for Japan on March 29th and is keeping her travellers engaged with a virtual tour of the trip day by day. Almost all the clients on this tour have transferred to our rescheduled 2021 departure, so they’re getting a fantastic preview of the tour to come!
Our team is also still planning new tours with a focus on domestic travel for the near future. Roland says, “We know that our customers are going to want to get out of the house and engage with fellow travellers when the virus risk has ended. This will be a perfect time to explore BC or Canada. Tours to international destinations are being planned for 2021 as it will take longer for airlines to get their schedules back to normal.”
Outside the office, our team has been very productive. Many of our team members have been busy spring cleaning or taking care of work around the house. Sema has been busy getting her garden ready for the season by trimming trees and preparing vegetable beds for planting. Cat has been planting seeds in her greenhouse, Shelley has been tackling some home renovations, and Lisa has been painting her bedroom.
Everyone has been trying to stay active and get outside. Roland has been cross country skiing on the weekends at his cabin in Wells Gray Park and Fraser has been using his lunch breaks at home to get out for a run with his dog. Kerrie has been chilling out with yoga and Alia has been taking her daughter out for walks in nature. Pat has been hiking with her two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers and Pam S has been taking her kids and puppy for bike rides to burn off some energy.
We have a lot of talented chefs on our team, and there have been some impressive culinary creations showcased. Terri has been experimenting with quick pickling recipes, Pam J has been baking bread with her daughter, and Kerrie has been making banana bread (word on the street is that her secret ingredient is Tahini!)
We’ve all been catching up on our reading lists, jigsaw puzzling, and Netflix binge-watching. Maria has been getting in lots of quality time with her family, watching movies and Marion has been spending time on Duolingo learning Spanish.
There are a lot of creative folks on our team. Stephanie and her kids have been busy with online art classes, Birgy has been crafting and painting, and Michelle has been taking advantage of the lack of people and cars to photograph the blossoms in beautiful Victoria. Uber-productive Cat has been drafting the pattern and making a bridesmaid dress for herself (for a wedding in October) when she’s not busy studying for final exams.
Many of us have are keeping in touch with family and friends on the phone, by email, or with apps like Zoom and Facetime. Marion says “Ironically, this social isolation has prompted contact with friends and family that I haven’t touched base with for a long time.” We had a virtual team happy hour on Friday which was lots of fun.
Here are a few snapshots of what we’ve been up to:
We are missing all of our wonderful clients, and we can’t wait to travel with you again once we are able to. Stay home and stay healthy! Warmest wishes from the entire Wells Gray Tours team.
What have you been doing to stay busy over the past few weeks? We’d love to hear. Leave us a note in the comments.