The Fairmont Empress Hotel at the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Victoria’s Fairmont Empress, Grand Pacific hotels close due to COVID-19

The iconic hotels and their services are closing to limit the risk of exposure to the coronavirus

Two of Victoria’s largest hotels have temporarily closed down due to COVID-19.

Vancouver Island’s hotel icon, the Fairmont Empress Hotel, closed on March 24. The hotel, famous for being the residence of royals during official visits and for its elegant high tea service, would usually be heading into its high season as spring and summer begin, but instead the doors have shut.

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“Every day brings new developments related to COVID-19, and as we navigate through these uncertain times and challenging circumstances we do so with the safety of our loyal and valued guests and employees as our highest priority,” said Tracey Drake, director of marketing and public relations in a statement. “In response, and to do our part in halting the spread of this virus, we have made the difficult decision to suspend hotel operations at Fairmont Empress and temporarily close effective Tuesday March 24, 2020. We are currently planning to reevaluate in the coming weeks and will provide updates on a reopening date as information becomes available.”

Suspension includes all hotel operations: guest services, overnight stays, the Willow Stream Spa, the health club and pool and all food and beverage services including at the Q at the Empress and high tea.

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A handful of employees will remain on the property to maintain emergency services, Drake said.

“This is a challenging time for Victoria and beyond, and our hearts go out to all who have been impacted. We will continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation and stay in close communication with our loyal guests and dedicated employees to ensure that our community is informed, connected and supported through these trying times.”

The last time the Fairmont Empress closed was in 1989, when it closed for several months due to renovations.

As of March 26 the Hotel Grand Pacific will also be shutting its doors.

“It is unfathomable what is going on in the world with the Coronavirus. Our health and our businesses are being threatened leaving us feeling helpless and concerned for our futures,” said Reid James, general manager in a statement. ” In the interest of the well being of our guests, clients, colleagues, and suppliers, we have made a very difficult decision to enact a temporary suspension of Hotel operations effective Thursday, March 26.”

The Hotel Grand Pacific will reassess the situation on April 30.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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