TORONTO — Industry professionals gathered recently to share insights into the current state — and future goals — of the Canadian hotel industry. The annual Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) conference, held at Delta Hotels by Marriott Toronto Airport & Conference Centre, brought together hotel professionals from across Canada for a full day of educational sessions and insightful panel discussions. 

The conference kicked off with the HAC Awards of Excellence presentation. The program was developed in 2004 to recognize HAC members (individuals, companies, properties) that have demonstrated significant accomplishments, exemplary leadership and tireless commitment to Canada’s lodging industry. This year’s winners included:

  • Humanitarian Award — J J Hilsinger, proprietor, The Water Tower Inn
  • Human Resources Award — Chelsea Hotel, Toronto
  • Green Key Environment Award — Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu
  • Aspiring Hotelier Award — Simranjit Gill, assistant guest service manager, Hilton Winnipeg Airport Suites
  • Most Impressive Hotel Repositioning Award — InnVest Hotels, LP/ St. Regis Toronto
  • Revenue Performance Team of The Year Award — Towneplace Suites by Marriott Sudbury

Following opening remarks from HAC Chair Jonathan Lund, HAC president Susie Grynol took the stage to review the association’s work over the past year and to unveil future plans. 

“We’ve been on an incredible journey here over the last three years together,” said Grynol. “We’re now coming to the end of the strategic plan that we put together when I joined this organization. [HAC is] focused on doing a few things well — engaged communications, connecting with our members, increasing our programming and making sure it benefits your bottom line and building a [sustainable] membership model.”

During her address, Grynol identified Airbnb and labour as issues that continue to challenge the industry and outlined how HAC plans to address those challenges in coming years. 

In the morning keynote, Millennials, The New Market Makers:  What the Canadian Lodging Industry Needs to Know About the Next Generation of Guests, Peter Yesawich of MMGY Global offered “10 things you probably don’t know about the travel habits and preferences of the largest demographic market segment of our time — millennial travellers” and offered ways to develop more effective strategies to attract this market.

Following a networking break, which offered attendees the chance to visit with a variety of vendors, Brian Leon president of Choice Hotels Canada Inc. moderated a panel focused on industry disruptors such as Airbnb, how governments are reigning in short-term rentals and what the future holds for hotel companies. Panelists included Chris Burgoyne of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Terry Mundell of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association and Nicole Nguyen of CBRE Hotels. The panel explored which big cities are likely to see a crackdown in 2020, what the federal government plans to do about taxation, what wins have been achieved to date, how the industry will continue to fight a multi-front battle and what the landscape looks like for hotels in the future.

A timely and relevant topic, The HAC breaking-news panel examined coronavirus and its possible impact on tourism globally and in Canada. Moderator Greg Klassen of Twenty31 Consulting was joined by Fran Hohol from CBRE Limited and Lyle Hall of Hall Hospitality Advisors to share what the industry learned from SARS and identify what Canada can do to mitigate its risks from the coronavirus.

A number of breakout sessions were offered throughout the day, with topic running the gamut from noise reduction to and communications strategies to the fight against human trafficking and how technology is changing the way hotels operate. Other topics included strategies for how to facilitate your operations by mixing technology and human activities, sustainability as a beneficial necessity in 2020 and how hotel chains use technology to elevate the guest experience and engage their front-line staff, to name a few.

As part of his closing keynote, Ron Tite inspired the crowd of HAC delegates with a talk that focused on how to create success in a busy, busy world. Titled “Think. Do. Say,” the motivational speaker spoke of the need to be able to cut through the clutter of today’s frenetic world. He pointed to Times Square as an example of one of the most vibrant parts of the world, but also one of the most distracting places with massive messages, blinking lights, and animated creates, along with the New York noise. But he reminded attendees that Times Square isn’t just in Times Square, it’s also in your pocket, and in your car, and in your home and office. As part of this ongoing battle for customers’ attention, Tite stressed the importance of being focused. “Every day delivers a priority. There’s always a new platform, a new technique, and a new tool to chase,” said Tite. But in this quest to grab customer attention and succeed, Tite advised brands, organizations and leaders to be focused. “It’s about what you think; what you do and what you say”. Success, he said, comes from “doing all three.” 

While the prevailing belief of the corporate world in the past was to increase profits, Tite says this has now changed. Today, “it’s about taking care of your employees, your customers, your supply chain, the community and shareholders. “Purpose is really important,” said the speaker.    

The day wrapped up with the popular women’s leadership reception, an evening inspired by leaders in the hospitality industry.


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