On November 18th, the MHA hosted a Hotel Industry Mixer for Hotel and Allied members. It was great to be back with members in-person at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg to enjoy some networking and refreshments. The MHA would like to thank everyone who attended.

Event sponsors were as follows:

•           Gold Sponsors: Western Financial Group Insurance Solutions, QUASEP, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, and Travel Manitoba

•           Beverage Sponsor: Labatt

•           Bronze Sponsor: POS Systems

•           Supporting Sponsors: National Payments, National Sales, Integral Services Group, Shaw Business, Westport Manufacturing, Mercury Publishing                   and Western Hotelier.


Working together is essential to pulling the Western Canadian hospitality industry through its most extreme challenge in recent history: COVID-19. While lively competition has occurred between hotel chains in the past, the current times require putting that aside to shore up the industry, rebuild and move forward.

In the words of rock and roller, Axl Rose, “All we need is just a little patience.”

Recovery won’t look the same for every property in every region. The variables that allowed remote resorts to stay afloat while they welcomed home-bound-weary domestic visitors are different from the variables that saw downtown conference centre properties scale back when international guests stopped arriving and events dried up like a roast left in the oven for far too long.

Everyone in the industry is more than familiar with what’s been happening over the last two years and the labour issues that were already bad prior to COVID (but moved from bad to worse). The questions are, what now? What’s next? And how do we do better going forward? The Western Canadian Lodging Conference held in Vancouver on November 15 and 16th attempted to provide answers.


Lobbying for the Hotel Industry’s Survival

In a video update from Susie Grynol, president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada, the benefits of fighting for the life of the industry through lobbying Parliament Hill were outlined along with shifts for the future.

“We were the first impacted, the deepest impacted and it will take us the longest to get back,” she says of the fallout from COVID-19 control measures. “Almost overnight we went from record highs to the lowest lows.”

There was a certain sense of apathy in Canada towards the hotel industry due to the mistaken belief that the majority of properties are owned by international billionaires as opposed to hardworking local individuals. The story needed to be told to gain the ear of government as well as support of fellow Canadians.

“Telling that story in the way that resonated with the general public moved us,” she says. Talking about local people and independent properties allowed the association to gain both public and government support.

The Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses was formed to bring a strong united voice to travel and hospitality businesses facing seemingly insurmountable issues.

“We were able to come together under core advocacy issues,” she explains. “We used the strength of our coalition.”

The coalition helped highlight the asset base of the hotel industry to ensure deep subsidies from the government like the Tourism and Hospitality recovery Fund.

“I really view this program as a ventilator,” she says. “It’s a safety net for any operator experiencing a 40 per cent loss or greater over the winter.”

With this work has come increased costs for the association and Grynol announced fee increases that will allow for continued work to help the industry rebound.

The Varied Faces of Recovery

As the industry begins to rebound, there will be a range of scenarios seen throughout Western Canada as explained by Carrie Russell, senior managing partner with HVS Canada and Greg Kwong, executive vice-president and regional managing director with CBRE Hotels. Using 2019 data as the baseline, the duo explained that Canadian RevPAR declined overall by 62 per cent in 2020.

“BC, which is our national playground, got around that at 58 per cent,” Russell says.

She notes that declines were similar to those seen in Europe. Deep and harsh. While hoteliers south of the border were slightly less impacted with about a 48 per cent decline.

“The good news is that for the next few years, it will be double digit increases,” she adds. “We just don’t grow like that in Canada.”

However, while the US is getting closer to normal rates again, Canada and Europe still lag behind.

“Leisure is one of the big things bringing people back to hotels,” she says. “I don’t think anyone has heard about Tofino so much in their lives. We need to get people back to travelling corporately again and to events, festivals.”

Russell predicts a national recovery by 2024. Some regions are close to normal levels already. Others will take longer. The larger centres will take the longest, so Vancouver properties will likely stay moderate in growth while other areas like the Thompson Okanagan have already seen strong growth.

The downside once again, is labour. When some markets began to recover, they simply couldn’t make rooms available because they lacked in staffing. This will continue to be a key factor.

In terms of investment in the industry, Kwong says hotels are still a pretty safe bet.

“You’re going to see some investment [in property upgrades] because people aren’t willing to go through building [from scratch],” he says. “The gap between bid and ask is closing again. We’ll see foreign investment come back with US investors first.”


Coming Together for the Greater Good

The ongoing refrain about supply chain issues covers just about everything that isn’t going right. A stalled renovation, changes to typical case goods, even access to restaurant food is all hampered by troubled links in the formerly smooth chain. Martin Stitt, senior vice-president operations, Canada with Hotel Equities speaks about the mad dash to get things done.

“All of a sudden there’s a scramble. There’s a pressure on owners not just on what you’re buying but when you’re buying it,” he says. “It’s definitely impacting all sides of the business. But the underlying factor is that the human capital issue will still be the leading problem.”

He explains that the industry has grown entrenched with the concept of putting an order in and receiving the required goods, but when it could take up to a month to receive soap, new plans were required.

“We have to instill in our people the confidence to solve these problems,” he says.

Robert Pratt, president and CEO with Sandman Hotel Group and Sutton Place Hotels noted that flexibility is required and supplier relationships are making a difference to operations.

“The reality is, suppliers are taking care of the clients who are most loyal to them and are most profitable,” he says. “You just want to make sure you are that favourite so you get what you need.”

This means continuing to build relationships with suppliers and also diversifying when supply issues crop up. However, supplies can’t do anything to resolve the labour issue.

“Getting back those people that we had to lay off was very, very challenging,” Pratt says. “We’re going through that now. That’s going to be a long process.”

Stitt says working together is the only answer.


“We better change and work together on this issue,” he says. “We’ve got to get the pie [of people] bigger before we fight over who gets the best piece of the pie. It’s certainly something we will unite over as an industry.”

Programs that elevate the industry and talk about the experiences of those like Pratt and Stitt who both have enjoyed decades in the industry, are the types of things needed for a strong push to individuals exploring and considering career options.

Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the British Columbia Hotel association summarized that the labour issue is the number one file she is concerned with. Her focus is on working with governments and other stakeholders to ensure there is an inflow of talent, as well as training and upskilling of those already in the industry.

The climb back to what hotel operators experienced in 2019 isn’t going to be easy. There are still challenges to be had. However, through working together recovery will come more quickly. It may be too early to celebrate just yet, but the time is coming.


Bethesda, Maryland and MARKHAM, Ontario (December 1, 2021) — Silverware and Curator Hotel & Resort Collection (“Curator”) today announced a partnership agreement that enables hotels in the Collection to use Silverware’s point-of-sale, mobile ordering, and contactless guest-facing digital solutions. Hoteliers within Curator can deploy these technologies to elevate their guests’ dining experiences, improve speed of service, increase check averages, boost operational efficiencies, and keep guests and staff safe. Silverware POS solutions drive efficiency and enhance the profitability of restaurants by delivering the most innovative solutions on the market.

“Curator is pleased to partner with Silverware to help our member hotels create exceptional dining experiences, whether they are seated in a restaurant, ordering for in-room dining, or ordering another round on their phone poolside,” said Austin Segal, Curator’s Vice President. “From full-service POS to digital menus, mobile ordering, and mobile payments, Silverware has a flexible POS solution that’s right for each member’s environment. As the industry continues to recover, efficiency and digital experience will be key for hotels facing evolving guest expectations and staffing challenges.  Silverware is an ideal partner for our members to both enhance their food and beverage service offerings and profitability.”

Silverware is trusted by the most notable brands and large venue operations around the globe. The company’s point-of-sale solutions — including fixed and mobile point-of-sale, contactless guest ordering and payment solutions, CRM loyalty, inventory management, kitchen display systems, and reservations systems — are designed and delivered specifically for organizations that are fanatical about providing exceptional experiences. The company offers the best in server and cloud technology, arming staff with the ability to turn tables faster and bust line-ups quicker.

“Due to ongoing labor shortages, the hospitality industry is operating with a permanently smaller workforce,” said Silverware Executive Vice President Lucky Thalas. “Our purpose-built fully integrated guest-facing contactless digital solutions offer an incredible guest ordering experience unique to each venue in the hotel or the guestroom.  We are giving diners complete control over their mobile phones' ordering, re-ordering, tipping, and payment process. Guests can identify allergies, split checks, and post payments directly to their room or credit card. Wait times to place orders are shrinking and satisfaction increases, leading to higher check averages, faster table turns, and more positive online reviews. We are excited to introduce the full line of Silverware solutions to the Curator Collection and drive profitability for their member hotels and resorts.”

Curator Hotel & Resort Collection is an owner-centric hospitality platform that offers a competitive alternative for independent lifestyle hotels to amplify their performance. Curator provides member hotels with best-in-class operating agreements, services, reporting, technology, and other benefits while associating together as part of the Curator Hotel & Resort Collection—allowing members to retain their independence and what makes them unique.


(Ottawa, ON) - The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Adrienne Foster as Vice-President, Policy & Public Affairs.

As Vice-President, Adrienne will spearhead the industry’s recovery efforts including a focus on public policy that supports tourism and hospitality growth, urgency and attention on the labour crisis and ensuring a level playing field amongst all
accommodation providers.

Adrienne has been championing the travel industry in Canada for over ten years. With both public and private sector experience, she brings an in-depth understanding of policy development, the machinery of government and government relations to the role.

Since 2016, Adrienne was the Director of Strategy & Corporate Planning at Destination Canada's Ottawa office where she worked with Parliamentarians and government officials in key departments on travel industry issues. Prior to this role, Adrienne worked
at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) as Director of Research & Public Affairs, where she developed an extensive industry network and advocated on policy issues including increased investments in global marketing, aviation cost structure, visa
policy and labour issues.

Adrienne will start in December 2021.


PLAINFIELD, IL, NOVEMBER 30, 2021 — Stay-in-place orders, travel restrictions, and cancellations intended to control the spread of COVID-19 caused a severe drop in hotel occupancy and revenue. Even the best marketing has not prevented the most enticing hotels from becoming victims of the pandemic. Famed names like the Renaissance Grand & Suites Hotel in St. Louis, the iconic Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Washington, D.C.’s century-old Marriott Wardman Park, and The Blakely New York have all fallen into bankruptcy. More hotel bankruptcies may be on the horizon as lenders lose patience with defaulting property owners.
Against this less than optimistic backdrop, however, a recovery is ramping up. Just as they did following the Great Recession, opportunistic investors willing to look beyond the current crisis are sweeping in to purchase distressed hotel properties, REITs and trusts. Confident in hospitality’s recovery they are actively seeking distressed assets in this space, often acting as both investors and managers. Several closed hotels are now set to reopen anew, rebranded, as a result.

Why Rebrand?
Rebranding plays an oversized role in investment strategies. Changing brands or “flags” can breathe new life into a distressed hotel that has developed a poor reputation. It can also help attract new customer types.
At minimum, rebranding requires a makeover to replace signature design elements that are synonymous with the previous flag. Or in other cases, a total renovation of the property is needed to meet the new flag’s current branding standards, including carpeting, tub-to-shower conversions, wallcoverings, furniture, smart technology and more. Investors should be aware that major renovations often trigger new building code requirements, as well as life safety and ADA updates, that add to costs.
PIP Top Shape
More times than not, rebranding a distressed hotel is a complex process requiring meticulous, strategic planning laid out in the Property Improvement Plan (PIP) written by the new brand’s franchisors. Additionally, basic maintenance may have been deferred in a long closed hotel. This, too, can have an impact on the scope of the renovation of a distressed hotel.

To provide some guidance, I’ve compiled a few tips on how to go about rebranding successfully.

  • Painstakingly review the PIP. Besides typical upgrades to corridors, guest rooms, and lobbies, PIPs can mandate upgrades to security systems, electrical and plumbing, and landscaping, as well as the addition of a fitness room, business center, meeting rooms or ballrooms.
  • In the same vein, it is not uncommon for franchisors to oversimplify PIP elements with words like “all” or “throughout the property” that results in contractors having to price in the most expensive scenarios. For example, does “all” Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment (FF&E) include both the moveable and non-movable furniture? Does the FF&E requirement extend itself to elevators, public restrooms and hallways?
  • Identify negotiable items in the PIP agreement. Items like flooring tiles or wall finishes can vary widely in price. A general contractor to break out the price since these might be the first things to propose as value engineering points to the franchisor.
  • During rebranding, sometimes franchisors allow PIPs to be broken into several stages that coincide with the hotel’s cash flow and business cycles. While this sounds good in theory, it usually increases the overall PIP cost because the contractor has to repeatedly re-stage. Don’t take the bait.
  • Stay open or closed? From a pure construction standpoint, shutting down a hotel allows for greater speed, ease and flexibility. From a cashflow standpoint, this is a nightmare. Valued members of your staff leave, bookings are lost or deferred, and operating income drops to zero while fixed costs continue to pile up.
  • For this reason, most hotel renovations are completed while the property continues to operate. Guestrooms are often renovated floor by floor or by grouping two adjacent floors at a time. Vertical renovations are ideal for bathroom conversions where access to plumbing requires taking stacked rooms out of service or where noise traveling through plumbing shafts is a problem.
  • Given today’s supply chain issues, before getting started an investor will want to discuss the implications of shortages with the franchisor as it effects deadline requirements and possible penalties. The franchisor will need to agree to a modified time frame so that you avoid delay penalties. Get that in writing.
  • Audit marketing assets. Before re-introducing the hotel, audit marketing assets to improve content performance. Review the inventory of photos, videos, blogs, presentations, email formats and infographics used by the previous owner to ensure they are up-to-date and on-brand with new franchise standards.

Once the investor has settled on the scope of the PIP with the franchisor, they will need to select a team of contracting professionals who specialize in hospitality renovations. Without extensive experience in the hotel industry, the contractor will lack the needed skill set for this highly detailed work.
Checking Out
Like other stages in purchasing a distressed hotel, PIPs are negotiable in both their scope and completion timeframe. New owners should negotiate as much as they can upfront before signing off on a PIP agreement, and before sharing the PIP with other potential investors. Keep in mind that it is the end-goal of the franchisor to not only make the best deal, but to maintain the highest brand standards and the best appearance for the hotel. The key is to find a balanced cost solution that meets brand requirements and the investor’s long-term financial goals.


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