We hope that you are well during these trying and uncertain times.
As a month has gone by since our last update on the COVID19 situation, I felt it time to make another public statement.
At this time our position hasn't changed much since we posted our last update on how the pandemic is effecting ATA Lodge (see our previous Blog Post). We are still monitoring the situation in Alaska and Bristol Bay closely. To be totally honest, the present set of mandates from the State of Alaska, including the most recent Phase 1 reopening guidelines, make operating a remote lodge during this crisis look unlikely. We are already way behind in the normal process of getting ready to open for the season.
So we are now waiting to see when the implementation of further Phases and new mandates come out in order to determine if these will allow us to open this season. We have also developed a COVID19 safety plan to submit to the Borough of Lake and Pen where our business is situated, but at the moment we will not be releasing that until we make a decision to open or not.
At this time we have been made aware that a few lodges, including a couple on the Alagnak River, have already announced decisions to close for part or all of the season. Other lodge owners that I am in constant communication with are still waiting to make a final decision as we are.
Some of the issues we are confronted with are concerns over options for travel to King Salmon. The major carrier from Anchorage that most of our guests have booked travel with, Ravn Airlines, has gone into bankruptcy proceedings. They have grounded all aircraft and canceled all flights. Without a government bailout or new investor funding; Ravn will not be operating this season.
Alaska Air is supposed to be adding more flights, but we are not yet aware of how many flights a week or day there will be. There is also a 14-day quarantine requirement for anyone coming from outside Alaska that is in place at the moment. Social distancing requirements restrict the number of people who can fit in a small plane to make the jump flights to and from the lodge; as well as how many people can share a boat or cabin if not from the same household. Meal preparation and service are affected as well.
There is local opposition from the Bristol Bay region to having large numbers of visitors coming into the area, potentially bringing the virus with them. This fear is understandable when you consider that over 40% of the indigenous peoples were wiped out by the Spanish Flu of 1918. These populations are also without adequate medical facilities. They are considered a vulnerable population in relationship to COVID19. There are other issues and challenges with various aspects of our logistics as well as supply chain challenges as well.
If someone shows symptoms of COVID19, then the whole lodge would need to be shut down and quarantined for 14 days. This would mean that those who are there would not be allowed to leave, and those that are supposed to come the following 2 weeks would not be permitted to come. So as you can see, without significant and immediate changes to the existing mandates and restrictions, as well as options for travel to and from Anchorage to King Salmon, we may have to close for a part, if not all of the season.
We anticipate that we will be making our decision around the 15th of May and will communicate with everyone at that time. Should there be some new developments that allow us to make a decision earlier than that, we will let you know as soon as possible.
In the event that we are forced to close and you are not able to come for your week with us this year, although we are not in a position to refund any deposits we will work with you to reschedule your trip. A lot of money has been spent already in getting ready for this season, much more needs to be spent whether or not the season is allowed to open. This decision is taken to safeguard the possibility of staying solvent. There is no one nor any business that can survive a year and a half with zero income. What we are willing to do is reschedule you or your party to another week later in the season (if possible) or to a week that's available in 2021 or 2022 if necessary. As you may have experienced, as I have personally, much of the travel industry is not even trying to do right by people. Most bookings in travel related holidays and vacations are not being given anything back. Even many travel insurance companies have said the policies don't apply to a pandemic. Most of us have been unable to get our investment back. But we are trying to manage our expenses in such a way so that we can apply 100% of your deposit toward your future trip if possible.
These are very difficult days for all of us. It is no one's fault in particular and decisions have been largely taken out of our hands. So we want to continue to encourage you to be understanding and work with us to arrive at a reasonable solution. We want to thank you for your continued patience and goodwill. We are sorry that we are not in a position to give you a more definitive decision yet.