TORONTO — Best Western Hotels & Resorts hosted members of the media at the Arcadian Loft in Toronto last week for its 2018 Leisure Travel Summit.
The event featured a panel of experts, which included Susie Grynol, president of the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC); Dorothy Dowling, SVP and CMO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts; and Brian Payea, head of Industry Relations at TripAdvisor. You Must be Trippin’ blogger Bryson Forbes moderated the panel, with panelists discussing the outlook for future travel and the Canadian lodging industry.
The panellists predicted a positive outlook for 2018 — holding at levels similar to the 2017’s record-breaking performance in both visitation and hotel performance. “We are currently outperforming [the U.S.],” Grynol noted. “The growth rate for visitation to Canada is stronger than the U.S., with a compounded annual growth rate of 2.6 per cent — more than one percentage-point over U.S.’s 1.6 per cent [growth rate], which they’ve held for the last six years.”
“Leisure stays are more likely to drive growth in 2018 that business stays,” said Grynol. “That is not always the case, but it is certainly what we see for this year. So, people are planning to travel more and have more vacations.”
Grynol also noted the trend towards adding extra vacation days onto business trips — known as bleisure travel. “It’s not a new concept, but it did over index this year, in particular, with professional-aged men,” she explained.
Although Dowling noted that lead times for bookings continue to shrink, with the majority of Best Western’s booking-to-arrival times being 14 days or less. The timeframes for long-lead bookings are also shrinking, with the averages sitting at approximately 45 days.
On the other hand, Payea pointed to research that indicated travellers are spending more time researching trips before they book. A comScore path-to-purchase study found that “more than 80 per cent of the travellers in that study who purchased a hotel [stay] and visited TripAdvisor took more than four weeks to plan their whole excursion,” he explained.
The amount of information available to travellers is also giving them greater confidence in their purchases and impacting their booking habits. According to study conducted by Oxford Economics, “travellers are taking more trips because of that increased level of confidence [when booking], the trips are longer and the spend is even longer,” said Payea.
Grynol also provided an update on HAC’s national strategy and its work with all levels of government to eliminate online-rental platforms’ unfair advantage over other accommodation businesses. “Our association has certainly taken on a leadership role in the last year and a half and built a national strategy where we’ve brought together all of the hotel advocates from the provincial and city associations, so that we can speak with one unified voice and really stand up for fairness, which is ultimately what the challenge is with this issue,” she explained. “Our goal, of course, is to have a level playing field for all levels of government — federally we’re talking about fair taxation; provincially, we’re talking about health and safety standards and accessibility requirements; and at the municipal level, basic things like needing to get a business license. None of these things are in place broadly across Canada, with the exception of three jurisdictions.”
These three jurisdictions include Vancouver, Toronto and the province of Quebec, which “has a myriad of laws in place at the municipal and provincial levels,” Grynol added. “We will continue to rally our industry, at the grassroots level, taking jurisdiction by jurisdiction, until we have a level playing field and then let the market compete.”
During the event, Dowling highlighted the 30th anniversary of the Best Western Rewards (BWR) loyalty program. To mark the milestone, Best Western announced that it will gift lifetime Diamond-Select Status to the nearly 3,000 members who have remained a loyal part of the program since its inaugural year.