The Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy, B.C. is owned and operated by the Gwa’sala Nakwaxda’wx people, and features authentic Indigenous cultural experiences, world-class cuisine and eco-adventure tours. The hotel believes initiatives that focus on Indigenous tourism are critical to the recovery of British Columbia’s visitor economy, bringing visibility and awareness to the unique stories and culture of each nation.
The Kwa’lilas Hotel remained opened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to offer accommodation to essential workers requiring rooms on Northern Vancouver Island at a time when most other hotels closed their doors. Regardless, the hotel has suffered a 70 per cent reduction in revenues so far this year.
The hotel accessed programs such as the Vancouver Island Coastal Tourism Resiliency Program and was awarded provincial and federal funding for Indigenous tourism businesses.
It has used these resources to develop a robust and strategic 2021 Cultural Tourism Package, leveraged wage subsidies to create employment, engage in staff training and invest in the property by constructing a new café within the hotel and construct a large covered patio annexed to the Nax’ID pub.
Although hotel occupancy remains low, the pub has performed well since reopening with patronage from the local community. Thanks to its generous proportions and open layout, it can safely accommodate up to 50 guests while adhering to health and safety guidelines. The hotel has created promotional evenings, activities and entertainment to attract new patrons from farther afield.
“While we have benefited from tourism resiliency programs and greatly appreciate the support, there is no doubt this is going to be a challenging year for all tourism operators, especially those that are dependent on international tourism, which makes up the bulk of our summer market,” says General Manager, Paul Cox.
“We are open and hopeful that Vancouver Islanders and British Columbians will not only visit Port Hardy and stay at the Kwa’lilas Hotel, but also explore and enjoy our beautiful region,” continues Cox. “From taking tours to the homelands of the Gwa’sala Nakwaxda’wx people, to seeing the Nakwakto Rapids which have the fastest tidal surge in the world, to taking a bear viewing tour – the North Island is one of the rare wild places left on the coast.”