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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 7, 2020
The license plates in the parking lots at the Cabot Links Golf Resort will be much less diverse this season, which begins June 19.
In a typical summer, half of Cabot’s guests are from the U.S. and 30 per cent more come to Inverness from Ontario. But this is anything but a typical summer.
“Our booking window is in some cases two years out, so we’ve had a lot of people coming from afar planning this trip that are unable to get here,” said Andrew Alkenback, Cabot’s general manager. “It’s tricky from our perspective because there’s no certainty. Guests call and ask if they can come in July and we don’t know. We can say the safe bet is to push into 2021 or August or September when we can hope there is some return to normalcy. Not having those answers is difficult, it’s tough on the staff, it’s tough on the guests.”
To generate traffic, the resort has offered two rounds of golf and a night’s accommodation for $355, a package that would normally run $860 at this point in the season. The response was immediate, with more than 1,500 phone calls in just a few days.
“It sort of blew up, and it’s great to see that there’s an appetite for travel within the province, great that we’re able to welcome Nova Scotians to Cabot. I think we can have a great time and do it safely,” Alkenback said. “I think a lot of people think we control the border. There was a guest coming to Cabot from Ontario and thought we had an exemption for U.S – Ontario guests, and all we had to do was give a thermometer check and they could go play golf. We don’t have that exemption.”
Alkenback said he’s been heavily involved in discussions with others in the hospitality sector, and all of them are hoping for the announcement of a Maritime bubble.
“It’s an opportunity for the Atlantic Provinces – it won’t be business as usual – but…I think that would be a great way to do it and also salvage a very important part of the season,” he said.
In addition to its unique topography and high-end accommodations, Cabot has the province’s only extensive caddy program. Caddies and other golf services staff have had virtual training on social distancing, but the demand for caddies looks to be way down.
“To what extent remains to be seen…but the expectation is that it will be down, we probably have about a hundred less caddies. We’ll see what happens later in the season if some of the border restrictions are relaxed, we may see a spike in that demand,” said Alkenback. “The caddy experience will certainly be different, but still relatively seamless, similar to years past. You as a golfer may have to pull your own clubs, probably have to wash your own ball, that sort of thing.”
The pandemic has also affected Cabot’s new par 3 course, scheduled to open in July. Some of the specialists that would be working on bunkers, for example, have not been able to get into the province.
At the Fox Harb’r resort in Wallace, the amenities include an air strip and a large, elaborate spa.
With a third of its clientele historically coming from the U.S., Ontario and Quebec, general manager Kevin Toth offered a stay and play package for $215 to attract golfers from this province when the resort opened June 1.
“A round is typically about $180, so that’s 40 per cent off, 30 per cent off. And we’ve had good response, we’re happy that Nova Scotians are supporting us on it,” Toth said. “We always have a spring special, and the majority of our spring business is geared toward the Atlantic Provinces market. So, us being closed for the month of May was a big hit.
“We’ve seen good response since we’ve been promoting that we’re open and it’s obviously just Nova Scotians that are able to take advantage of our spring promotion.”
While the price of golf has been slashed, the cost for services at other parts of the spa won’t be.
“Because we’re a four-diamond property, I’m not looking at doing any deep discounting, it’s more of a priority to keep the high level of service and experience for our guests,” said Toth, who won’t have as many employees as normal this summer. “My roster is going to be about 60 per cent of what we normally are. We made a commitment to maintain our level of service and we’ve got a huge fixed cost, with eleven hundred acres and maintaining that, planting beds and keeping the service at a high level. But there’s a number of positions, just because of the drop in volume, that we don’t need.”