In the ’70s, the disco lights burned brightly and hotel guests began to expect more while the hospitality industry boomed. Tired hotels were glammed up or replaced with new 500- and 1,000-room properties, such as the 1,590-room Delta Chelsea (now the Eaton Chelsea). At the time, globalization began to set in, while the low Canadian dollar, and an emphasis on the service sector, gave rise to an influx of convention business.
And, hotels began to foreshadow the trends of today. To start, a rise in health concerns led to Toronto’s Constellation Hotel establishing its first non-smoking floor in 1973. Additionally, the Glass Container Council’s Hotel and Commercial Pickup Program lent support to environmental concerns.
Meanwhile, the Canadian hospitality industry was making waves on the international stage as Fairmont’s Queen Elizabeth became the headquarters for the Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics. And, Quebec’s Fairmont Le Château Montebello served as the stomping ground for world leaders such as Ronald Reagan (U.S.), Margaret Thatcher (Britain), François Mitterrand (France) and Pierre Trudeau (Canada) as they attended the G7 Summit in 1981.
But, as the ’80s dawned, it was a deregulated economy and increased consumption that led to a more confident and informed customer who began to enjoy modern hotel amenities. For example, liberalized liquor laws led to an increase in lobby bars, which were frequented by young professionals with an excess of disposable income.
Keeping in line with the evolving customer and increase in business travel, tie-ins with car rentals and airline frequent-flyer programs began to pop up. In fact, Delta introduced its signature ‘Privilege’ loyalty and recognition program in 1989, and myriad hotel office facilities as well as auto check-in and check-out features were introduced. Of course, as the hospitality industry grew, it became increasingly clear there was need for the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) to build its presence in Ottawa on behalf of provincial members. Subsequently, the “Group-of-Seven” power committee was formed of key industry members to solicit 30 chains to join HAC by the end of 1989.
But, amidst the growth there was also upheaval, as hotel workers protested wage and job security in a demonstration in the ’80s, which affected 10 Toronto hotels, representing more than 5,000 rooms in the city. It was the first hotel strike in 20 years, and it was an important time to grow HAC’s influence in anticipation of the years of change and evolution ahead.
Check out the December issue of Hotelier for the next instalment of this series, which corresponds with the Hotel Association of Canada’s centennial anniversary.