TORONTO — The Greater Toronto Hotel Association held its annual general meeting last week at the Chelsea Hotel, Toronto, attracting solid representation from the city’s hotels.
Bonnie Strome, chair of the association, opened the meeting, touching on some of the highlights of the past year. She reported that the city is coming off the heels of a very successful year and cited strong numbers from the past year. According to Strome, the city received 15.5-million overnight visitors in 2017. “Occupancy is up in every region,” she said, highlighting a few important issues that will impact the membership moving forward, including new cannabis legislation, a new WSIB rate structure and the continuing efforts to level the playing field with Airbnb. She also mentioned the city’s new hotel tax, which went into effect earlier this spring.
Other notable highlights included record attendance at this year’s Spirit Awards (an awards program for the industry’s employees) and a three-year extension of the association-funded hotel management program, offered at Humber College. Strome also announced a new slate of board members for the next two years.
Terry Mundell, president of the GTHA, took to the podium to deliver his address. “The good news,” he said is “that business is good — it’s great actually,” said Mundell, recalling that when he joined the association, “GTHA business was tough — it was just hell,” he said, explaining that the industry had to “take matters into their hands on how they were going to fund tourism marketing,” leading to the implementation of the Destination Marketing Fund in 2004 — a response to falling tourism numbers fueled by the SARS crisis in 2003. “We should be proud of what those individuals started,” said Mundell, referring to the DMF’s launch.
Now, 14 years later, the implementation of the new four-per-cent Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT), introduced April 1, means the DMF is history, although the tax does raise funds for the city’s programs and services as well as Tourism Toronto, which promotes the city as a tourist destination. Mundell stressed the importance of protecting tourism. But he was also quick to add, “Who knows what’s going to happen with that tomorrow,” alluding to the provincial election, which took place the following day and the municipal election set for later this fall.
Through the challenges, Mundell stressed the importance of working together as an association to effect change. “It’s not done by one single person; it’s done by a team,” he said. “You have to know when you’re in difficult times. Our board knows how to get things done,” boasted Mundell, adding, “How’s our business now? Life’s pretty good, right? Enjoy it while you can.”
Mundell also stressed the importance of strong leadership in government. “We need leadership; we don’t need rhetoric. We need leaders who recognize the importance of our issues and the economic driver that we are. People think hotels are about a lot of bricks and mortar, and that we all wear suits, but we’re a part of the social fabric of the community — we are where people come to meet people. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day but what happens after tomorrow is even more important,” said Mundell, referring to the outcome of the provincial election. “But we’ll figure it out. We need your input, feedback and participation,” he told the crowd. And then he left them with a parting thought: “Our biggest concern isn’t who’s in the premier’s chair, it’s what happens with NAFTA.”