Ontario spa owner calls on government to include destination spas in COVID-19 reopening plans

The purpose of destination spas like Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ont., is to offer guests an opportunity to rest, repair and relax, but the last 15 months have been anything but relaxing for the spa’s owner, Jim Corcoran, and his 250 employees.

On Thursday, Corcoran wrote an email to pasts guests telling them “our revenue has dropped on average by a breathtaking 70 per cent while we have been closed or partially closed.”

He asked guests to write an email of support to Premier Doug Ford. Within a day, Corcoran said he received more than 600 messages.

“Spas aren’t a luxury. They’re part of a mental health strategy,” he said.

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A significant point of frustration, Corcoran said, is the lack of clarity surrounding destination spas within the provincial reopening plans.

“Technically, I believe we fall into an industry that isn’t acknowledged to exist in Ontario,” he said.

To add to the spa owner’s exasperation is the fact that strip clubs are clearly identified in Ontario’s “Roadmap to Reopen.”

“It would be a lot easier if I was a strip club because then it’s very clear what I can and cannot do in Ontario,” said Corcoran.

Like many other businesses, Ste. Anne’s Spa fully closed last spring for several months.

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Then, over the course of the pandemic, guests could enjoy a more limited experience including a massage with a registered massage therapist, taking part in outdoor wellness classes, as well as dining outdoors.

On Friday, the spa fully opened its new outdoor water therapies circuit which includes heated pools and hot tubs, a river spa and the cold plunge pool.

As of Wednesday’s lifting of the province’s stay-at-home order, Corcoran Ste. Anne’s Spa is fully booked through the summer.

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Corcoran told Global News that part of the $200,000 he’s spent on PPE and Plexiglas barriers has also been invested in COVID-19 rapid testing.

Going forward, guests will be asked to take a rapid test before entering the spa or to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

“Honestly, given the protocols that we have in place, I can’t think of anything we can’t do safely here,” said Corcoran.

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