Social media is changing the way we live, work and play in the 21st century, but, more than 60 years ago, in the ’50s, television and the proliferation of the car in the U.S. were the big game changers. Such innovations initiated an influx of family road trips and a new era of hospitality.

Instead of drafty cabins, modern motels — built alongside major highways — offered full bathrooms, heating and quality furniture. And, hoteliers worked to improve F&B, parking and services, such as access to televisions, which offered a new level of luxury to the hotel guest.

As the guest’s boundaries grew, so did the hospitality industry’s reach. Hilton created the first centralized reservation office and introduced air conditioning in its rooms, while Atlific Hotels entered the marketplace in 1959 with the Holiday Inn Montreal Airport Châteaubriand, the first Holiday Inn property in Canada.

It was a busy time. The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) was establishing its name, creating a coat of arms; building an official HAC directory (Wrigley’s Hotel Directory) and touting the motto that declared: “We work while others play.”

Moving into the ’60s, the hospitality industry’s working landscape was shifting as franchises began to grow in popularity, comprising many of the almost 200 hotels built in Canada in the first two years of the decade. In 1962, Delta Hotels and Resorts opened its first hotel, and four years later, in 1966, Best

Western opened its first Canadian sales office in Montreal (see the Best Western supplement insert). But, while a number of hotel

franchises were infiltrating Canada, mega projects were also taking shape, such as the completion of the Four Seasons Sheraton in Toronto — the largest hotel in the Commonwealth at the time.

As the decade drew to a close in 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their famous “bed in” at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel and Walter Chell, a Westin Calgary restaurant manager, invented the Caesar cocktail. Meanwhile, a more discerning customer continued to initiate changes, such as 24-hour room service, which the Westin claims to have conceived. Credit cards were growing in popularity and hotels and travel agents began to work together.

At the turn of the next decade, the Trans-Canada Highway initiated another breakthrough as in-country and U.S. tourists reminded hospitality insiders that Bob Dylan was right and, in fact, the times were “a-changin’.”

Check out the September issue of Hotelier for the next instalment of this series, which corresponds with the Hotel Association of Canada’s centennial anniversary.


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