It was Tony Pollard’s final Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) conference, as the president of the Ottawa-based association prepares to retire later this year. As the audience toasted the long-running advocate, they learned about innovations, the new sharing economy and the state of the industry.
“What an unpredictable year it’s been,” said Philippe Gadbois, SVP of Operations at Atlific Hotels and Chairman of the Board at HAC. “The Canadian stock market was one of the biggest losers in the developed world; the country’s once-hottest economy, Alberta, became a ‘have-not’ province, and yet, 2015 was generally a good year in the hotel industry in this country.”
Ending the year with 64-per-cent occupancy, ADR of $144 and $94 in RevPAR, the Canadian hotel industry is expected to see occupancy contract and a slight improvement in both ADR and RevPAR in 2016.
But new challenges are presenting themselves. “We continue to deal with the so-called ‘shared economy,’” Gadbois added. “Our position and message is clear; provincial and municipal governments are leaving a ton of money on the table. Private hotel rooms must be regulated and treated the same way as all of our hotel rooms. Taxes should be paid on the total room, not simply the net. It must be a level playing field.”
That sentiment was debated during a panel discussion featuring Airbnb’s country manager for Canada, Aaron Zifkin, AskForTask Inc. CEO Muneeb Mushtaq and Rover Parking founder Tim Wootton. “In the past 12 months, interest in the sharing economy is tremendous,” said Mushtaq. “The normalization or legitimization is the most drastic change in the past year,” Zifkin added. But, when it comes to insurance and taxation, “insurance is still behind and they’re working hard to come up with a product that makes sense for what’s being offered,” Wootton said.
In a later session, Canadian Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger urged the audience to keep the momentum going leading up to Canada’s 150th birthday, while former CEO of Hilton Group, Sir David Michels admitted that after 52 years in the hospitality industry, he’s found the recipe to success is about the right location, great employees, understanding the customer, offering value and above all, a comfortable bed.
Meanwhile, the HAC Hall of Fame Awards of Excellence were presented to Scott Allison, Marriott Hotels of Canada (Humanitarian Award); Carolyn J. Clark, FRHI Hotels & Resorts (Human Resources Award); The International Centre, Toronto (Green Key Meeting Award); and Pemberton Valley Lodge (Green Key Energy & Environment Award).
The day ended with a champagne toast, celebrating Pollard’s 25 years with HAC. “The world has changed so much in the days since I was hired in 1991,” he said.
Pollard also shared how proud he was of the Green Key program and HAC’s government-relations department. “Look at where we are today with the government and how they listen to us. For example, we had a tourism budget last year, we now have a federal tourism strategy. All of these things are happening because we have a good government-relations program in Ottawa and, as I leave later this year, that’s what I am most proud of.”