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The Impact of COVID-19 on the Hospitality and Service Sectors

By Gail Woodfine

The effects of the pandemic have reverberated across all sectors, but the hospitality sector in particular took a big hit. With unrecoverable losses and rising expenses, many small businesses went into survival mode.

Entrepreneurs revisited their business plans and adjusted where they could. Some refocused their marketing efforts on local customers, offered flexible cancellation options, and kept their businesses afloat as well as possible.

Barb Genge, owner and operator of Tuckamore Lodge on the Great Northern Peninsula, says being an entrepreneur brings a lot of stress at the best of times. Still, after decades in business, she felt like she was starting all over again. “At the beginning of lockdown, it was scary and lonely.” Genge, a powerhouse, is used to confronting a problem head-on. However, she said the isolation, uncertainty, and constant barrage of bad news at the beginning of the pandemic were challenging.

Lack of service workers

Service workers across the country have left the hospitality sector.

“Without staff, we have to pitch in and fill the void. That means cleaning the rooms, making reservations, ordering supplies, and just about anything else that comes our way on top of managing the business,” said Darlene Hennebury, owner of Killick Inn & Suites on the Northeast Avalon.

Genge says she has a strong sense of responsibility toward her staff, and some who were in her employ for years felt like family. But when better offers came from other sectors, she couldn’t blame them for leaving. Hennebury and Genge both say they anticipate trouble finding replacements for the workers they’ve lost during the pandemic.

Substantial impact on supply chains

Hennebury said keeping a stocked inventory all comes down to good planning. She tries to anticipate what she’ll need months in advance, and for her business, that’s worked so far. Hennebury operates from the Northeast Avalon and says access to fresh produce and other supplies hasn’t been a problem. Genge, who lives on the Great Northern Peninsula, has a different experience. She says that when produce trucks pulled into her community in the early days of the pandemic, half of their inventory was already spoiled, and there were long lines to buy what wasn’t.

Kayla Butler, the owner of Kayla Butler Photography in Corner Brook, on the province’s west coast, orders supplies for her business internationally, and varying global responses and lockdown measures have created delays.

According to the OECD, the pandemic has placed unprecedented stresses on supply chains, and bottlenecks in transport and logistics have disrupted the movement of products.

Staying connected through technology Hennebury said she’s doubled down on her online presence by investing both time and money in technology to generate awareness and increase customer traffic. Butler uses social media to promote her business: “I began telling my clients’ stories online, but then I connected with other photographers and started to build a new online community, which has been an unanticipated benefit.”

Butler also says the pandemic forced her to look for alternate sources of revenue. She took her business online and diversified by offering virtual classes through Zoom.

The value of networking

Running a business isn’t easy on a good day, and throughout the pandemic, many entrepreneurs realize the benefits of staying connected.

Through webinars, online coffee breaks, and check-ins, NLOWE has been keeping our members connected. Peer support and mentorship are needed now more than ever, so please don’t underestimate the value of your network, and keep in touch!

To learn more about NLOWE's mentorship program please visit


Gail Woodfine is the marketing and communications coordinator with Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE)

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