TORONTO — The 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games kick off tomorrow and business is finally looking up for hoteliers in the GTA. While rooms were slow to fill leading up to the Games, Terry Mundell, president of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association says GTHA members have seen more movement in the last few days as last-minute reservations start to roll in.
“Booking patterns by consumers are very short term, especially in July and August, so it isn’t unusual to see bookings coming in same day or 24 to 48 hours prior to a consumer travelling to a destination,” says Mundell. “In discussing this with GTHA members it seems to me that this booking pattern is starting to materialize. We’re hopeful that if this booking pattern continues to hold in its traditional format we’re going to have a solid July.”
Mundell says typically July and August in Toronto have been reliant on both transient business and regular group business and despite fears that traffic congestion would keep these groups away from the city during the Games, he says most hotels have held onto their group business.
“We’ve had some displacement but the interesting piece, if you look at some of the numbers, is that most of that displacement landed in June. As a result, hotels have had a great June. Year-to-year, up to the end of June, we’re running the same approximate numbers as 2014 and 2014 was a very good year.”
Some hotels fared better than others thanks to advance bookings by TO2015.
“We were lucky enough to receive a large room block through TO2015, including support and service staff required to be in the city 10 days prior to the start of the games until August 15,” says Ron Pellerine, general manager, Chelsea Hotel, Toronto. “That said, this gives us a good base above which we can offer a good number of guestrooms to visitors to the city, those that are buying tickets.”
Pellerine is confident that his hotel will pick up some good last-minute business to fill their remaining guestrooms.
“The athletes are in town which is a great boost”, says Mundell. “The opening ceremonies are on Friday night and now people are really thinking about the Games so I think we’ll see more of those booking patterns come to fruition.”
Spreading the wealth
Pan Am/Parapan Am competitions will be held in more than 30 venues in various locations including Toronto, York Region, Durham Region, Peel, Halton, Simcoe, Haliburton, Hamilton and Niagara. While some may look at this massive footprint as detrimental, Tony Elenis, president of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association sees it as a way to level the playing field for hotels outside the downtown core.
“Surrounding areas feed off the downtown especially on the weekends; so unless downtown gets full, the outlying areas don’t see as much traffic. But with the games being spread across so many venues, I’m hearing exciting news. In Hamilton area, for example, they are about 15 points ahead year-over-year.”
Elenis says he is getting the same kind of feedback from the Simcoe area where athletes competing at local venues are checking into nearby hotels and resorts rather than commute from the Athlete’s Village.
“That alone has pushed up some of the occupancy numbers. In those areas [outside of Toronto] they are much busier than their traditional performance in other years. For them, this summer is going to be the best summer they’ve ever had and they are all excited because of the exposure they will get and how that will benefit future business.”
When it comes to number crunching, Mundell cautions the industry against focusing too much on the now and not enough on the future.
“One of our goals is to increase the amount of room nights sold in the GTA by one million room nights by 2018. To increase that we need a couple of things, but one of them is clearly the international market place. A lot of the Pan/Parapan Am countries we talk about are those marketplaces so the TV exposure that we’re going to get into those marketplaces is important.”
Mundell also points out that since Toronto does a lot of convention business, new infrastructure like the UP Express linking Pearson International Airport to Union Station will be an important component for the city to bid successfully for other similar events.
“We need to just be a little bit careful about the now and remember there are some longer term effects that are really important to our industry in order to grow our business.”