Miska Haven Bed & Breakfast, located east of Enderby along the Shuswap River, has kept busy with guests from closer to home in 2020. (Contributed)

‘Staycation’ spike keeps North Okanagan bed and breakfasts bustling

Owners say locals have been filling the void left by fewer travellers from afar during the pandemic

Despite having fewer visitors from afar this year, bed and breakfasts in the North Okanagan have been kept busy with guests looking for a peaceful retreat closer to home.

B.C.’s tourism and hospitality sectors have suffered from a dearth of out-of-province vacationers since the pandemic began. But for Dave and Diane Quinn, owners of Miska Haven Bed and Breakfast, a rise in ‘staycations’ has helped make up the difference.

Miska Haven sits on 1,800 feet of waterfront along the Shuswap River, a 10-minute drive east of Enderby. The Quinns started the year-round business in June 2019 on the remote, forested property overlooking the Hunters Range hills.

It’s as good a place as any for a pandemic holiday.

“We are at a dead-end road so there’s not a lot of traffic, not a lot of potential for interaction with other people. We really are secluded and away from other folks,” Dave said.

Last year about 85 per cent of Miska Haven’s guests came from Alberta. While that’s down to about 40 per cent this year, their cabin and yurt have remained full with guests from the Okanagan.

“This year probably 60 per cent are from B.C.,” Quinn said. “We’re seeing people from Armstrong, Vernon, Kelowna — we’ve even had people coming out from Enderby just looking for a bit of a getaway.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

It’s been a hectic year of adapting to health and safety guidelines from the provincial health officer and the B.C. Hotel Association. With additional guidance from the Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce, the owners have found ways to make their guests feel safe while maintaining the experience.

“It’s been a significant increase in the workload, but it’s been very satisfying in that we’ve been busy, and people, when they’ve come, have actually been able to forget about COVID for the two or three days that they’re here,” Dave said.

Check-in times have been spread out to allow time for thorough cleaning. Everything comes out of the units after guests have left, and items like books and games, if used, are removed and isolated for four days. The two guest areas have been separated to prevent mingling between people in different social bubbles.

Breakfast has been the biggest challenge, with meals having to be pre-packaged in disposable containers. Dave said they’ve switched to offering breakfast by request, lowering their pricing for those who would prefer to provide their own meals.

The experience has been similar for Yvonne Meyer and Joey Minshall, now in their fifth season running J-heart-Y Bed and Breakfast on Twin Lakes Road in Enderby, where they host guests in their cozy, 100-square-foot treehouse.

“The COVID cleaning protocols were something to wrap your head around,” Meyer said, adding they started their season a month late while protocols were being ironed out.

She said far more guests have come from the Okanagan and Interior than in recent years, and the treehouse was booked every weekend throughout the summer.

Though the cost of operation has been higher as they work to adhere to protocols, the semi-retired couple isn’t concerned about profit; they’re happy to offer a service that’s given more locals an escape this year.

“People are in awe of the experience because it’s so quiet and so peaceful,” Meyer said. “I just feel that we’re the right kind of people to offer a service like this.”

Miska Haven is open for the winter, and the Enderby chamber has worked with them to develop a ‘staycation’ package through the Okanagan We Got This chamber network.

READ MORE: Canadians spend more money and time online during COVID pandemic: StatCan


Brendan Shykora

Reporter, Vernon Morning Star

Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com

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