Cheryl Macarthy and Dave Jorgenson have been running tourism businesses in the Wells and Barkerville area for the last 22 years. They are avid explorers and adventurers, dog lovers, captivating storytellers and active members of their community. More recently, they have focused their energy on running their quaint, local gift shop named Frog On The Bog, located in a beautifully restored historic building in the heart of Wells. In addition, they run the St. George Bed and Breakfast in Barkerville, and The Mountain Thyme Guesthouse and Willow River Inn. Each of their guest houses provide quirky and unique details that celebrate the 1930’s history of Wells.
“Like most tourism businesses, we’ve been reeling under the load of crisis management and educating ourselves about the ‘new normal’. It continues to be a shifting landscape.” -Dave Jorgenson.
Cheryl and Dave were looking for additional support in navigating their new reality in dealing with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic when they heard about the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast (CCC) Tourism Resiliency Program, and they registered immediately.
Their experience with the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Dave shared that they felt very isolated at the start of the pandemic, but through this program and the access to one-on-one support with a CCC Program Advisor they were able to stay informed on programs changes and access tool kits, research, training and Covid-19 reopening protocols. Cheryl mentioned that it helped having someone to reinforce that “we are not in this alone.” In addition, Dave said that he was pointed to the BC Tourism Resiliency Network CEWS Webinar through the program and that it was instrumental in their successful application for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
At the Frog On The Bog, Cheryl and Dave feel very positive about the changes they have implemented, including their new customer management and workflow that protects staff and customers, while offering guests a positive experience. Their store provides a social experience, and Cheryl mentioned that “we probably spend more time guiding customer vacation experiences than we do selling product.” Through innovative ideas in alignment with WorkSafeBC they have managed to come up with creative solutions to implement things like sneeze guards while not making their customers feel isolated. They have also created safe and attractive waiting areas if the store reaches capacity, and they display signage that is directive, but still has an amusement factor that projects their friendly brand.
“The gift store has a strong regional reputation as a destination, so we have some confidence that we will survive through our tremendous regional support.” stated Jorgenson. Recently, with the store open again, they are ramping up their purchasing of products from regional and local artists and artisans in order to support their local and regional community.
At their hotel in Barkerville Historic Town & Park and at their guest houses in Wells, they have found the safety protocols for the accommodation sector intimidating and much more difficult to adapt. At their historic boutique hotel located in the heart of Barkerville, the season has been cut short due to a late park opening date; and they have halved their occupancy and had to completely redesign the customer experience to ensure their guests and staff are safe.
They have found that maintaining clear and open communication with both their pre-COVID-19 guest bookings and new bookings has been crucial as they navigate this new normal. Being honest about the new protocols while, both giving and asking for, understanding and managing their future guests’ expectations has made it easier to brace for the inevitable increase in costs and changes in service- delivery.
“If we can provide an unbroken chain of confidence that we are still providing positive experiences while paying attention to the realities of safely operating under the new COVID-19 protocols then we will create a season that we can be proud of, despite the hurdles that have been thrown in our way.” -Dave Jorgenson
Cheryl shared that the CCC Tourism Resiliency Program has been a relief to them. Having a direct connection with a CCC Program Advisor feels like they constantly have somebody in their court supporting them. “When we connect with our advisor, we know she is updated, connected and looking out for us, and at the end of day we have a direct line to a person to talk to. Enriching and deepening that personal connection, as a rural small business owner, is vital and we know that the Cariboo Chilcotin
Coast team understands this. We are grateful for the personal commitment and long-term scope of the program as we move through recovery,” said Cheryl.
In closing, Dave shared that he believes that “everyone should sign up for the CCC Tourism Resiliency Program, because I know there are tourism business owners right now, that are missing opportunities and they could use this support.”