The Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, has been an iconic New Brunswick destination since its construction in 1889. The town’s most famous and most photographed building has hosted many notable guests including members of the British royal family, U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as Sir John A. Macdonald and most subsequent Canadian Prime Ministers.
“The Algonquin is such an important part of Canadian hospitality history; the oldest resort of its kind east of the Rockies,” says General Manager Matthew Mackenzie. “It has an incredible legacy every New Brunswicker should be proud of. We are fortunate to have such a beautiful flagship property here in St. Andrews; it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted.”
Despite the undeniable effects COVID-19 has had on the country’s hospitality sector, Mackenzie says The Algonquin has managed to successfully reopen its doors due to its preexisting need to pivot in the summer months. “In a good year we still deal with a very intense seasonal swing, so we can capably pivot our facility and its offerings to meet a summer surge. Obviously, guest needs are different this year, but we have managed to adapt and keep people relaxed, happy, and more importantly, safe.”
Mr. Mackenzie spoke to ONB about the Resort’s 2020 season.
ONB: What has changed for The Algonquin and its operations post-pandemic?
Mackenzie: The pandemic devastated us through March, April, and May. We typically have 60-80 staff, both full and part-time, to get us through winter. After closures went into effect, I reduced our operational size down to eight employees.
Summer typically sees us grow to about 285 employees. That involves hiring plenty of locals, but it also includes people from outside the province. We had offers out this year for folks to join us this spring and summer, and when COVID-19 hit we had to tell about 100 of those people we could not bring them on. Figuring out how best to tackle peak season with 100 employees less than you counted on was daunting.
We did a cost analysis to see if it was even worth opening for summer 2020. We asked ourselves if cost recovery was even possible. Fortunately, our ownership group is extremely passionate about this facility. Ultimately, the decision was made to scale down operations, open our doors, deliver a great experience as always, and meet all federal and provincial public health requirements in the process. It’s not a typical experience this year due to some restrictions, and that’s fine. We understand and have fully adapted.
Marketing is obviously focused more on New Brunswickers and our friends inside the Atlantic Bubble. We want travelers to know that not only are they safe at our facility, they’re safe in St. Andrews. This community has taken the pandemic seriously from day one. They weren’t afraid to say they weren’t quite ready for visitors at one point. We are now.
How do you see the business being affected long-term?
I try to remain optimistic. There is a ripple effect, however, if you consider airlines being impacted and having to close routes. That can hurt small communities like ours, not just the big cities. There is no question some hotels won’t survive. For us, being innovative and focusing our story and on why our facility is unique and world-class is going to remain key to our strategy.
We are a small province and a connected community as a result. The coming months and years are an opportunity for us to figure out who we are as a province. It’s a good time to look at what New Brunswick has to offer collectively and reach out to each other more, complement each other’s offerings to really entice people to our region. For example, we already do a good job with our food and beverage offerings in terms of finding local suppliers. Some of our other supplies, however, come from multinationals. I think that could be a big change, more local partnerships. Through more partnering with local small businesses, we can help them survive and thrive too, and bring even more Maritime authenticity and hospitality to our property and its guests.
Has there been a silver lining for you at all during/since the pandemic?
I have additional responsibilities in Nova Scotia and three children who spend 50 per cent of their time there. With COVID-19 hitting, I didn’t see them for over two months. That has been hard for me.
The silver lining for me, and I’m sure others would agree, is realizing that we have all sacrificed, personally and professionally, during this time. We have all faced challenges and we are all working hard to keep each other safe and financially stable. We have had great support from the local community, Opportunities NB, the Department of Tourism, and so many others. We have come together, no question.
It’s anecdotal, but I find guests this year seem less distracted, and much more present with their friends and family. They spent months living entirely in front of their screens. I think many people are seeing time with loved ones through a new lens. Hopefully, none of us lose touch with that feeling.
I’m a 27-year veteran of this industry for a reason; I love the work. If we can help guests shed the stresses that have come in 2020, even for a short time, we will.
Finally, what three words come to mind when thinking of this period?
Tenacity, optimism, compassion.
Learn more about one of Canada’s most spectacular coastal resorts, The Algonquin Resort St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, Marriott Autograph Collection at AlgonquinResort.com.
Read Marriott’s post-COVID-19 commitment to cleanliness here.
Keep an eye on all the support ONB can offer as it relates to dealing with COVID-19.’
Images via The Algonquin Resort