TORONTO — More than 450 CEOs, hotel owners, franchisees and suppliers gathered at Toronto’s Hilton hotel this week to attend the 2013 Canadian Hotel Investment Conference, where industry members spent a day attending breakout sessions, panel discussions and networking functions.

“The Canadian economy today is waiting on the world to change,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist and managing director of CIBC World Markets, who kicked off the conference by explaining how the global economy is influencing the Canadian travel market. “In terms of the number of visits to Canada, we’ve been in a long drought, from four million visitors a year in the 1990s to two million at the height of the recession, and there’s been very minimal recovery since then.” Global governments cutting spending and raising taxes means foreign spending in Canada has also seen minimal growth (2.4 per cent), according to Shenfeld. On a positive note, he predicted Europe will move from a recession to modest growth in 2014, which will be an incentive for more people to travel to Canada.

Bill Stone, EVP, CBRE Hotels, offered a cross-Canada investment outlook, highlighting Alberta, where RevPAR in Edmonton and Calgary grew in 2012, benefiting from the area’s strong resource base. In Calgary, from a supply standpoint, 40 hotels have been proposed. Regina and Saskatoon have been generating the highest occupancy in the country, with 73 per cent. Meanwhile, hotels in Toronto experienced solid RevPAR growth of 6.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, which Stone attributed to the city’s luxury supply.

In the afternoon, Tony Pollard, president of the Hotel Association of Canada, and Amanda Lang, senior business correspondent at the CBC, moderated panel discussions on issues facing hoteliers today and the anatomy of financing, respectively. The afternoon wrapped with an on-stage discussion with Ken Greene, president and CEO of Delta Hotels and Resorts and Joel Eisemann, chief development officer, The Americas, InterContinental Hotels Group, who discussed technology and foreign opportunities: “The Asian traveller to Canada is a huge opportunity, “ said Greene. “For the next five to seven years, we’re really going to have to refine our business [to] capture our fair share.”

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