TORONTO — Members of Days Inn hotel teams from across the country converged on Toronto this week to attend Days Inn Canada’s Surprise and Delight Conference 2017. The event, which was held at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, featured three days of learning and networking.
Canada’s leisure and business travel will help maintain strong hotel occupancy growth into 2018, according to Brian Stanford, senior managing director with CBRE’s Valuation and Advisory Services Hotels group.
Speaking to conference attendees on Wednesday morning, Stanford explained that Canada’s economic outlook will continue to be positive into 2018 which means hotel occupancy and revenues will continue to remain strong.
The concern was that after the strong growth many hotels experienced with Canada 150th celebrations and Montreal celebrating the 375th anniversary of its founding, travel and hotel occupancy would drop significantly next year. “The numbers we see for 2018 are really not dropping off all that much,” Stanford says. “What we are seeing is overnight business travel growing at 2.4 per cent in 2018 and similarly for domestic travel in 2018.”
According to CBRE Hotel’s most recent numbers, overnight pleasure travel in Canada is forecast to grow 2.6 per cent for 2018 and total domestic travel is forecasted to grow 2.4 per cent in 2018.
Stanford adds that demand growth will continue to outpace supply, “and we are targeting a 65 per cent occupancy for the hotel industry in Canada for 2017; it will hold at that level for 2018. That is unprecedented when you think about [Canada’s] urban-rural mix and you look at our seasonality.”
National ADR and RevPAR growth is also expected to remain positive into 2018. According to figures Stanford shared with attendees, ADR growth in 2016 was 3.3 per cent, is forecast to reach three per cent for 2017 and projected to reach 3.4 per cent in 2018. The numbers for RevPAR growth also look strong with 2016 coming in at 3.4 per cent, 2017 forecasted to be 4.4 per cent and 2018 projected to be the same.
Stanford says that people should keep an eye on Atlantic Canada. While supply currently lags behind demand, this is likely to change as more rooms come into the region. According to CBRE Hotel’s numbers, supply is forecast to grow by 1.7 per cent this year and demand for is forecast to grow by 4.6 per cent. However, supply is projected to grow by 2.7 per cent in 2018 with demand projected at a more modest 2. 8 per cent.
“We have about 30,000 rooms across all of maritime Canada. To put that into context, Toronto sits at about 45,000 [rooms], so we have more hotel rooms in the GTA than in all of Atlantic Canada. So, it will not take much to move that needle on supply,” Stanford says.
Looking at these projections, Stanford says that hotel operators have a lot to look forward this year and into next. “This is going to be a strong year for demand, a strong year for occupancy and a strong year for growth. This is a good time to improve your bottom line.”
Lisa Checchio, senior vice-president, global brands at Wyndham Hotel Group followed Stanford by saying that the surest way to create continued growth and brand loyalty is to work at developing an emotional connection between the brand and the customer. She warns that focusing on amenities and what you have to offer is not enough.
“People need a reason to come back to your hotel brand,” Checchio says. “They must feel something for your brand and it has to be an emotional connection. And, these connections influence people’s recommendations of your brand. If we want [guests] to pull off onto the exit and come to us, we need to give them more than just rational reasons. We need to have them feel something for our brand.”
In the seminar ‘Taking Control of Your Online Reputation with WynReview,’ Debbie Williams, senior Training manager Special Programs, Wyndham Hotel Groups, emphasized the importance of hotel reviews and how to properly respond to negative reviews.
Four out of five people today expect a fast response when they post a criticism of their stay — often within the hour. How one handles that criticism is important as it can determine if that hotel guest will return and recommend the hotel to others.
Williams says that what is most important is to not get emotional about reviews, especially negative ones. While a negative review may hurt, an emotional response that isn’t thought through can be more damaging than to not respond at all. It is better to step back, look at what the criticism is and to formulate a response that takes the concerns seriously and values the guest’s review.
A well formulated and thoughtful response to a negative review will diffuse a situation that can quickly get out of hand. Williams also notes that handling a negative review properly can increase the chances of that guest returning to or even recommending your hotel.