The moment has arrived. Toronto’s hotel industry has been abuzz in recent years as the city prepared to welcome four new luxury hotels to its landscape. Last October, the final of the fab four to join the fray was the world’s most well-known luxury brand, the new Four Seasons, which opened in the city where the brand was born more than 50 years ago.
Certainly, the moment was auspicious for Isadore Sharp, who built the luxury chain from the ground up, and, for Toronto, it marks a coming of age. For many years, the Four Seasons was the only luxury game in town. Today, it’s joined by the Ritz-Carlton, the Trump Tower and the Shangri-La, not to mention the Thompson Hotel and the Hazelton, which opened a few years ago. Each property brings its distinctive charms and each will vie to outshine the other, attracting fans who are drawn to each brand for different reasons.
With the new players firmly ensconced in the community, it should create some interesting dynamics. Certainly many industry analysts wonder whether Toronto can sustain the flurry of new products and whether the city is truly world class enough to attract guests of this calibre. David Larone, analyst with the Toronto-based PKF consulting firm, is watching the developments closely; he argues that if the hotels hold firm on rates, they will ultimately do well. He adds: “If you provide the product and the service, the clientele is here.” But, the hotels’ success will also be contingent on whether the marketing gurus do a better job promoting the city and the country.
Meanwhile, on the business front, there’s a spate of good news that should bode well for the city and the hotel industry. Firstly, according to a recent report in the Toronto Star, the city’s economic forecast finally looks brighter, as Canada’s financial capital is expected to be the fastest-growing Canadian city outside Western Canada. And, as the U.S. economy recovers, demands for exports made primarily in Ontario are expected to increase. The report shows Toronto’s real GDP is forecast to grow at 2.8 per cent, up significantly from last year’s 1.9 per cent. As Peter Viducis, manager of Economic Research at the City of Toronto, notes, those numbers mean Toronto is better positioned than many cities in Europe.
Additionally, the latest results from the 2013 Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) Canadian Travel Intentions Survey show business and leisure travel is projected to rise by two per cent in 2013. In fact, 47 per cent of travellers said hotel service in 2012 was better than in 2011 and 50 per cent said it was better than two years ago. Those stats are proof positive the industry is enhancing the guest experience. So, with the ingredients to success now in place, it’s time for the industry to show what it can do.