Business: Wequassett Resort To Be Open Year-round

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Business , Community Sustainability

The Wequassett Inn and Resort. FILE PHOTO

EAST HARWICH — Remember when Cape Cod rolled up its sidewalks after visitors went home on Labor Day? Those days are long gone, and increasingly, once-seasonal businesses are trying their luck in the shoulder and off seasons. The Wequassett Inn and Resort will soon be among them.

Following a brief closure for maintenance, the Wequassett’s guest rooms, function rooms and restaurants will be open for visitors again on Feb. 9, and will stay open the remainder of the year. General Manager Alton Chun said the decision is in keeping with the resort’s commitment to economic vibrancy, both for the business, for its employees and for the larger community.

Wequassett sees itself contributing to “an environment where people can live and work and sustain themselves year-round on the Cape,” he said. “Being a large employer, we think that we have an opportunity to shift the needle, not just for Wequassett but for the town that we’re in and Cape Cod as well,” Chun said. For several years, the resort has contemplated switching to year-round operations like one of its competitors, Chatham Bars Inn, but could “never get the right pieces to fit” until now, he said.

“Yes, there’s a lot of economic headwinds and stuff, but we still think that people will want to travel. The community as it’s growing now, it’s becoming more vibrant in the winter months and shoulder months,” he said.

The obvious challenge is revenue, and Chun said the resort has realistic expectations.

“Financially, it’s an uphill road,” he said. “We know it’s not going to be the most desirable time to be on the Cape, but I think businesses like ours have the opportunity to create experiences in the shoulder and winter months,” he said. That will likely mean an emphasis on dining, building on the resort’s strong culinary program and its two restaurants. In the high season, the restaurants generally see a good mix of hotel guests and area residents, and that will likely continue in the winter, Chun predicted. But that doesn’t mean the resort expects the lodging side to dry up.

“We feel that maybe it’s an opportunity to be more accessible to a wider range of people in the winter,” he said. “Isn’t it nice if you live on the Cape and you get to stay in a hotel over the weekend, and stay in a place like this?”

While traditional summertime resort activities are off the table in the winter, there is an opportunity for the inn to expand its cultural offerings in partnership with local arts groups and nonprofits, Chun said. Speaking from the main dining room with its sweeping views of Pleasant Bay, Chun said there’s an opportunity for the creative use of space.

“The nice thing about the winter is, this doesn’t need to be an 80-seat restaurant,” he said.

Since most of the Wequassett’s buildings have already been winterized, the key unknown about operating the resort in cold weather is about human resources.

“The challenge is obviously making sure that we have the right amount of staff to be able to service our guests,” he said. But that challenge brings opportunity by potentially allowing many existing employees to live on the Cape year-round, “which I think not only benefits us at the resort, but also benefits the towns that we’re in.”

For the communities, that means a broader base of year-round contributors to the economy, including families with school-aged children — a group local towns have sought to encourage. For the resort, it should have a positive effect on the workforce.

“I think it would give a lot more stability,” he said. “We’re fortunate that we have a lot of employees that come back year after year.” About 60 percent of the resort’s seasonal workers return each year, he noted.