North Battleford – What do you do when your new hotel is hardly seeing anyone come in the door due to the COVID-19 crisis, but truckers are having a hard time finding a place to shower and grab a bite to eat?
If you’re the Holiday Inn Express in North Battleford, you open your doors to commercial truckers.
The hotel, which opened in 2019, is offering free showers, as well as complementary breakfast or supper, to commercial truckers.
Pipeline News spoke to owner Gary Brar on April 3. If that name is familiar, its because Brar was behind the wave of hotel construction throughout southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba over the last decade, having built Western Star hotels, their own brand, in Carlyle, Stoughton, Redvers, Carnduff, Esterhazy, Melita and Estevan, as well as another property under a different flag in Regina.
Brar said, “We had the option to close down or keep open.”
This led to a brainstorming session, where they talked about how truckers had been treated during this crisis.
The media has been filled with reports of how some places have shut down washrooms or shower facilities, and the difficulties truckers have had even to get a hot meal, despite being considered one of the most essential services in our economy today. They are one of the few groups of people whose mobility has not been restricted, but they’ve been having a hard time to even get a shower.
“Why not open up some rooms?” Brar said.
The main floor rooms of the hotel have been opened up so that commercial truckers can use the washroom and showers. The rest of the room has been blocked off so that cleaning staff can clean and disinfect after each user, according to Jenni Wuttunee, director of sales and marketing.
Wuttunee said, “We decided we wanted to give something back.”
Complementary breakfasts for truckers are from 5 to 10 a.m., and suppers from 6 to 8 p.m.
Brar said this is “One hundred per cent free.”
Asked how long he intends on doing this, Brar responded, “Until we see some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Wuttunee said response has “been really good.”
“Guys have been stopping. They’ve been very grateful.”
Truckers are working long hours, constantly going. In addition to their large parking lot, she said the city of North Battleford has been allowing truckers to stop on the adjacent side street.
There’s been an outpouring of positive response, she noted.
“Our industry has been extremely hard hit,” she said. They’ve laid off about two-thirds of their staff in North Battleford, for instance.
The past winter hasn’t been too bad for their hotels in southeast Saskatchewan, but with this pandemic, it’s been tough. “This is going to be really hard, spring and summer this year,” Brar said, but added,
“All Western Stars are still open.”