The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) hosted its annual conference at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Toronto Airport & Conference Centre on February 7 and 8. The event brought together hotel managers, owners, investors and industry suppliers to network, share ideas and formulate strategies to help drive business success. Here are some of the highlights. This year’s overarching theme was one of positive growth, increased international appeal and bright predictions for the year ahead.

HAC president Susie Grynol opened the day with her Presidential Address. “I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the last 12 months and I’m proud of this industry,” said Grynol. “It’s such a pleasure to represent you. You’re breaking records; you’ve had an incredible year; you’re a key driver of economic growth in Canada.”

Heading into 2018, Grynol said, “It’s supposed to be an even stronger year. What a great time to be a hotelier.”

She also outlined the association’s strategic plan for 2018, citing four key goals. The first is streamlining accuracy. “That means not being all things to all people,” she said. “We’re going to pick the top two issues you [identified] and build winning strategies to get the job done.”

Engaging communications is the second goal. “This is about connecting with you, getting the message out and also making sure you are connecting with us — building the channels to have your input on a regular basis.”

The plan also includes increasing programming that benefit hoteliers’ bottom line. “You’ll be able to actually calculate and evaluate what this membership means to you.” And, finally, a new membership model is in the works. “This association was never set up to fund the kind of advocacy campaigns we’re currently running, so this new membership model is one which will allow us to be sustainable into the future.”

“Last year, I’m proud to say, as a country we did our all-time high in international visitation,” said Jon Mamela, SVP & CMO, Destinations Canada (DC).

During the year, Mamela said Canada welcomed 20.85 million tourists — surpassing the record set in 2002 by nearly one million.

He went on to share the association’s strategy for driving market share for Canada. With a focus on commercial relevance, DC’s marketing and sales initiatives will fuel a dynamic visitor mix — leading to strong demand and return on investment for the industry.

The new HAC Travel Intentions survey, which measures 150 variables and looks at information by province and by loyalty program, was unveiled at the conference — just two days after it was completed. “It’s a new go-to source for the industry,” said Nik Nanos of Nanos Research, who presented the study.

In addition to business and leisure travellers, the survey also looked at a growing group of “bleisure” travellers — those who mix work and vacation travel. The study identified travellers over age 55 as more likely to use a foundational business trip and add more days for vacation. “Men tend to add more days to business trips,” he said. “And while the average number of days added nationally was 2.51, Quebec business travellers added 3.95 more nights.”

Nanos also developed customer narratives to put a face to some of the different types of travellers. Samantha Sameness is someone over 55 who wants consistent service standards and consistent room standards. She skips social media and likes reward points websites. She is more likely to arrive by car and would not consider Airbnb Ian Maximizer is typically 35 to 54 years old. If you give him free amenities, he’ll book direct with the hotel and he’s driven by good loyalty plans. He also regularly searches for specials. Bobby Brand, also typically 35 to 54 years old, is both a business and a leisure traveller. He’s all about brand and is three times more likely to be doing more, rather than fewer stays in 2018. The fridge, the pool and frequent guest upgrades are important to him.

Finally, Natalie Explorer considers herself a free agent and is 18 to 24 years old. She uses social media to check out options, says free wireless service is important to her, wants good exercise facilities, would consider Airbnb for a leisure trip and is not a member of a loyalty plan.

A panel, which included Robert Bruins of Oxford Property Group, Tony Cohen of Global Edge Investments/Crescent Hotels & Resorts, Stacey Hansson from Ricky’s Family-Style Restaurants and Eric Malcolmson from ICON Legacy Hospitality, presented case studies of their F&B operations.

They looked at how to best optimize food-and-beverage operations in hotels and offered real-life examples of how renovating spaces, changing up menus and investing in the in-hotel outlets have allowed them to derive increased revenue.

In this well-attended breakout session, hosted by Ian Milford of JRoss Hospitality Recruiters, Dr. Frederic Dimanche, director, Ted Rogers School of Hospitality & Tourism at Ryerson University presented the results of a study on the cleanliness of Canadian hotels. The research, provided by Revinate and generated by TripAdvisor, revealed that Canada fell short on a global scale when it came to average room scores but was on par when it came to positive reviews (70 per cent).

Following his presentation, a panel discussed the results and examined housekeeping challenge. The panel included Suzanne Gatrell of Kingsbridge Management Ltd.; Paul Jones from Best Western Sawbridge Suites; and Nikki Stewart from the Fairmont Royal York.


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