With summer in full swing, and more than 75 per cent of Canadians now vaccinated with their first dose and another 20 per cent fully vaccinated, hoteliers are taking their first tentative steps on the long road to recovery.
But just how long that process will take remains to be seen. The good news is there’s pent-up demand for travel. Already, in resort areas of Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, hotels are coming back strongly, with room rates starting to inch higher and demand outstripping supply. As Susie Grynol stated during the recent Canadian Hotel Investment Conference, “We will see some possibly significant recoveries for our resort properties as an example. But the dichotomy to that is that our downtown cores are going to sit virtually empty.”
While it’s heartening to anticipate a strong summer ahead, ultimately just how strong it is will depend on when the U.S./Canadian border re-opens and whether the race to vaccinate continues at the current pace. Canada has suddenly become the global leader on this front, with Canadians having the most first doses of any other country in the world and it’s expected that by the end of July, we should have the majority of Canadians vaccinated with their second dose, if not sooner.
“This has created and shifted the scientific climate around the discussion on travel,” says Grynol, adding that “until this point, it was not recommended by public-health officials.” Now, says Grynol, “the government is actually using travel as the carrot to get people vaccinated.”
But what will the world of travel look like as business slowly returns is the million-dollar question. Many hotels will take years to return to normal. It’s expected the industry won’t return to 2019 levels until 2024. And, even when business does resume, hotels will need help, both in the form of extended wage subsidies and stimulus packages, to help sustain their businesses. Additionally, hoteliers will be further challenged to deal with repercussions of the pandemic, including labour shortages. Already in the U.S. — a market that is ahead of us in terms of recovery — American Airlines announced it would cut back service in several of its routes due to severe labour shortages. Hotels south of the border are also dealing with that dire reality.
Now, more than ever, the hotel industry needs a strong plan from government, starting with definitive news as to when the border will re-open, its plan for vaccine passports as well as help to incentivize us to travel in our own backyard. Beyond that, governments need to develop a multi-year and multi-faceted plan to help the industry move forward. And, undoubtedly, it needs to continue to provide financial stimulus to re-build this industry because without it, many hotels just won’t survive.
Written by Rosanna Caira