March 26, 2020

Life in an empty downtown Ottawa hotel in times of COVID-19

Lord Elgin Hotel Lobby Lord elgin hotel lobby


Three weeks ago, our life here at the hotel was typical for early March. We were gearing up for march break, with packages and offers for families and gearing up for spring with the onslaught of travellers that come for the Tulips Festival, Race Weekend and all that fun stuff. Exciting times!!!

Now our hotel, the Lord Elgin and our sister hotels, the Metcalfe Hotel and The Carleton Suite Hotel, are closed until further notice. It’s that ‘further notice’ that is driving us all mad! How do you plan, project, budget or manage a hotel with no definite ‘start date’. We are all so anxious to get back to it.

Now that the new reality has set in, I find most people are finding and sharing silver linings and uplifting stories in this trying time. People are reaching out, offering help and support and words of encouragement. I am so heartened by their humanity.

When we were faced with the innumerable cancellations over the coming months, our clients were so incredibly supportive, promising to rebook as soon as possible and some have already resigned for the fall. When they learned of my team’s layoffs, they sent kind words of support and encouragement to them and copied me. Here are a few of those…

I am so saddened to hear that you are going to be laid off as of this Friday! It has been such a pleasure working with you. You have always been so responsive, accommodating and professional. I have recommended that several of my colleagues call you directly when they are looking for meeting or guest accommodations. You are really just top notch! The Lord Elgin is so lucky to have you. I know that they will call you back as soon as things normalize. I would also echo these sentiments with regards to all of the staff that I have come into contact with at the hotel. I look forward to booking many meetings in the future with your establishment.

and another:

I really hope the Lord Elgin knows your worth and value, you are amazing and have provided us with the best, professional, personable service for years and I can’t say enough about how truly valued you are to us.

It was so heartening to read these emails. I could not feel more proud of my sales team. They have all handled themselves with such professionalism and compassion for their clients. They looked after business right until the last minute and continue to check – in from time to time, so they feel they are ‘in the loop’. Most have been with me for 10+ years and all are incredibly loyal and hard-working. We could not ask for better ambassadors for the Lord Elgin Hotel. I always know I can count on them. They rise to the challenge every time and this has been a true test of us all!

So here is the challenge. What to do with an empty hotel and a shut-down economy. We are a locally owned family business. We cannot survive indefinitely like this. We have done everything to manage our costs over the coming months, but there are some we cannot eliminate. Some of our suppliers have been very understanding and have waived or offered discounts at this time. We are so very grateful to you!!! There are really good people out there. This is when you know who they are.

So, our quandary is… how do we maneuver in this strange and unknown time? How do we re-fill this big empty hotel once the restrictions are lifted and we are allowed to get out and about again. Who will rebook and when will they feel safe to do so? How do we get folks to come to our beautiful city, Ottawa this summer. I would love to hear from you. Call me… I am feeling very lonely in my big beautiful hotel!! I would love to hear from you!

Ann Meelker, Director of Sales & Marketing