The road to recovery is paved with varied challenges and a host of important questions. Economic indicators continue to improve in Canada, and hoteliers are eager see a return to normal. But after a decade that’s been marked by terrorism and war, SARS, economic meltdown, the ever-looming threat of pandemics, not to mention erupting volcano ash in Europe, do we even remember what normal is? Or is uncertainty, flux and chaos the new normal?

We know the economy will eventually recover; what we don’t know is the extent of that recovery or how long it will take. Once the economy gets back in gear, it will be interesting to see how guests respond to the shifting marketplace. Will customers resume travelling with vigour, or will they slowly pick up the pieces of where they left off before the recession? Either way, one fact is unmistakable — hoteliers can no longer expect to see great results by doing the same old, same old. Innovation is the hallmark of this shifting landscape.

This month’s profile of the Thompson Toronto hotel heralds a new era for luxury properties in Canada’s biggest city (see story on pg. 8). Over the next few years, several more innovative, luxury properties are slated to come on stream, and their arrival will bring new amenities, new focuses on foodservice and varied approaches to the challenges of hotel-keeping.

While many wonder if cities like Toronto can sustain the emergence of multiple five-star properties — especially at a time when the world economy is still volatile — it’s clear their arrival marks an incredibly exciting time for the city, the hotel industry and, more importantly, for the nation. It signals a maturation process for our industry and puts us in the big league of global destinations. After a wildly successful Winter Olympics, Canada is solidly positioned for continued growth. And though the spinoff effects may not be immediate, they promise to be significant.

As we move into the busy summer season, it’s important to remember that today’s guests are seduced by novel experiences. That means hoteliers need to take risks on new approaches; they need to be willing to offer more than just standard rooms. In a recent issue of Travel and Leisure, the magazine takes a look at an emerging breed of hoteliers who are offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences for their guests. They’re highlighting adventurous, quirky and lavish experiences like a helicopter ride to a picnic spot on the edge of a cliff in Queensland, Australia, a hotel in Marfa, Texas, comprised of vintage trailers, yurts and a tepee, or a new majestic hotel in Singapore that has “fanciful suites with larger-than-life murals and beds suspended from the ceiling.”

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps; but in a world where homogeneity is vilified and authentic experiences are continuously sought out, tomorrow’s customers are demanding nothing less. As Stephen Brandman, co-owner of Thompson Hotels, says, “In the hotel industry we all have similar ingredients. How you blend those ingredients is what makes it special.”


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