Can any hotelier truly say they’re not happy to see 2011 fade into oblivion?

Probably not. Granted, as Canadians, we’re better insulated than our cousins to the south and clearly much better off than our friends across the pond. Still, even in Canada, for most in the hospitality industry, 2011 was nothing to write home about.

Now, with a blank slate before us, we’re primed for new beginnings, punctuated by the requisite hope that comes with the start of a new year. But, as we turn the page on 2011, we can’t help but be markedly Canadian in our cautious optimism. During the past decade, we’ve been reminded that natural disasters, as well as geopolitical and social unrest, can strike anytime, anywhere, impacting us significantly — even when the disaster occurs outside our borders.

One has only to look at the recent troubles in the Eurozone to understand how interconnected we are with our neighbours. Certainly, tourists travelling to Canada will be affected by the challenges experienced in Europe. Similarly, the lingering recession in the U.S., has had huge repercussions for the Canadian economy. And, with 2012 being an election year in the U.S., we can undoubtedly expect more uncertainty in that populace and perhaps even less travel from Americans. Here at home, the question on everyone’s minds is how long can Canada continue to be insulated from the problems plaguing the world?

Regardless of what happens this year, the hotel industry will benefit from the lessons learned in recent years, as well as the austerity measures companies and individuals have been forced to implement.

But it’s important to remember that, after years of reduced spending, there will be a great deal of pent-up demand for travel. Many consumers are undoubtedly ready to have fun again and start spending their hard-earned dollars. When they do, the hotel industry will be primed to welcome them.

In fact, the hotel industry is poised for interesting times. The opening of several marquis brands in Toronto (including the Trump, the Shangri-La and the Four Seasons) and Montreal (the Ritz-Carlton) heralds a new era of excitement for the hotel industry, with several world-renowned chefs in tow, ready to launch innovative culinary concepts. More recently, the introduction of several new hotel concepts by some of the industry’s biggest names, also demonstrates the continued vitality of the industry.

Despite the ongoing turmoil that has plagued us since the new millennium, today’s consumers are sophisticated and demanding, seeking out intriguing experiences and exotic adventures and pushing innovation in the hospitality industry. After the doom and gloom of the past few years, who knows, 2012 could be the year many consumers decide to hit the road. Here’s hoping they do.

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