The American tourist took centre stage in the Canadian hospitality industry in the ’90s, but it was technology that transformed business after three years of declining occupancy at the turn of the decade. The industry reawakened as computers were used to accurately forecast sales and advancements in reservation and front-desk functions showed a growing sophistication in central reservation systems.
Not surprisingly, this busy time was pivotal in the Hotel Association of Canada’s (HAC) 100-year history. In 1991, the association opened a permanent office in Ottawa, and its current president, Anthony Pollard, began his reign. He took the helm as the organization assumed a leadership role in the “Experience-Canada” promotion, which involved a number of advertising campaigns heralding the country, while uniting hotels, airlines, car, rail, charge-card companies and the government.
It was the beginning of the promotion of initiatives that would draw tourists and rally government support for hospitality in the country. Case in point: in 1993, HAC created the Dollar-Awareness Campaign to educate U.S. travellers about the value of the Canadian dollar; in 1994, it took a lea-dership role in establishing the Canadian Tourism Commission; and, in 1998, it collaborated with other business sectors to convince the finance minister to provide GST/HST rebates on food, beverage, and catering for international meetings and conventions coming to Canada.
In the new millennium, the focus shifted as Canada welcomed more international travellers to its shores. Quebec City’s Château Frontenac played host to the Summit of the Americas in 2001; Huntsville, Ont.’s Deerhurst Resort hosted the world’s G8 leaders in 2010; and Vancouver show-cased the Great White North during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. But, perhaps, most notable for tourism (and hotels) was the Chinese government’s 2009 decision to grant Canada Approved Destination Status, making it easier for Chinese nationals to visit.
And, although the 2008 recession has led to sluggish growth in occupancy and room rates, con-tinued development and initiatives such as Green Key Meetings (an offshoot of the HAC-developed 1997 Green Key environmental certification program), are keeping the sector competitive.
It’s clear the industry has had its share of growing pains, but as HAC celebrates its 100th year in service, there’s positive news ahead, especially as Toronto prepares to welcome the world to the Pan Am Games in 2015. So, the question remains: what does the next century hold for Canadian hospitality as technology, globalization, government regulations and the world economy continue to rapidly morph? We’ll soon find out.