Meet Your Board Nominees

The board is responsible for governing the association by:

  • Defining and communicating the AHLA’s vision, mission, and values;
  • Focusing on the whole organization rather than individual issues of interest;
  • Speaking with one voice;
  • Directing the AHLA’s work by approving policy and monitoring impact;
  • Managing its own self-governance; and
  • Hiring and supervising the AHLA President & CEO.

March 20 – 24, 2017, you will vote for individuals who have been nominated to sit on the AHLA Board. We have asked the three board nominees up for election in the South zone–Chris Barr, Pam Hesse, and Leanne Shaw–some questions to help you cast an informed vote. Here are their responses.

Like other jurisdictions, the sharing economy is growing in Alberta, and online home-sharing platforms, such as Airbnb, are adding inventory to Alberta’s supply of guest accommodation. The AHLA has put forward recommendations to government that encourage regulation around home-sharing. What are your thoughts on home-sharing in Alberta and how the AHLA should proceed with this issue?

Chris Barr, General Manager, Banff Aspen Lodge: 

Every industry sees the arrival of new competition every year.  Our industry is now seeing a massive growth rate within the sharing economy.  I believe competition is healthy and it helps to force our industry to continue to be innovative and provide our guests with amenities not available through the home-sharing platform.  However, as with any new business evolving within an industry there are regulations that must be implemented in order to ensure that there is an even playing field for all businesses involved.

I firmly believe that home-sharing platforms must adhere to the same regulations that hotels adhere to.  Inspections of properties to ensure that travelers are staying in safe homes, ensuring criminal activity occurring in these homes are not occurring, commercial accommodations operating within residential areas resulting in lower property values as a result of noise and safety concerns on neighbours, these are all factors that can occur without proper regulations being implemented on these platforms.

We must also continue to work with Travel Alberta to ensure that the home-sharing platforms are also collecting and contributing to the Tourism Levy as there is the potential for millions of dollars to be left off the table.  The Home-Sharing platforms will continue to benefit from the free marketing of Travel Alberta without contributing their part into the marketing of Alberta as a Destination while the Hotel industry essentially pays for marketing Alberta.

The AHLA has to continue to lobby our government to modernize the Tourism Levy Act, Residential Tenancies Act, Condominium Property Act and the Innkeepers Act to ensure that the sharing economy is playing within an even playing field in our industry.  The AHLA must continue to encourage municipalities to ensure that the home-sharing platforms participate in the same regulations and insurance requirements that the hotel industry is currently subject to.

Pam Hesse, OStays Calgary: 

I believe the sharing economy is here to stay, however, the largest percentage of AirBnB hosts are actually multi-unit operators.  I believe that we must accept these developments as if we were dealing with new hotel competition in the various areas, and as such, the AHLA should proceed with lobbying for legislation for these multi-unit operators to ensure they are collecting the GST and provincial tourism levy.  If we can have this type of regulation in place, it will ensure that these operators are put on a level playing field as all other hotels and motels in Alberta.  We can also then encourage these operators to participate their local DMF as well.

We also need to have hotels that are aware of these multi-unit operators inquire of them to provide occupancy & revenue stats so they can be accurately tracked, as STR has not found a viable way to glean this information at this time.

Leanne Shaw, General Manager, Country Inn & Suites by Carlson: 

There are two main issues that need to be addressed with online Home-sharing; the first is to ensure that there are adequate regulations put in place both provincially and municipally to ensure that these operators comply with similar health and safety and fire regulations putting home sharing operators and hoteliers on a level playing field and protecting visitors to our province.  The second issue relates to the collection of the Tourism Levy. At present these operators are not contributing to the Tourism Levy while they certainly derive benefit from the sales and marketing efforts of Travel Alberta and the local DMOs. I believe that the AHLA has to continue to press government to update the specific acts that will have these operators contribute to the tourism funding model in Alberta and ensure that all visitors to our province can be assured of a safe place to stay regardless of their choice of accommodations.

 

Alberta’s current economic and political landscape has undergone a dramatic shift in the last two years. What do you think the impacts of this will be on the labour market and our industry, and how do you think the AHLA should respond?

Chris Barr, General Manager, Banff Aspen Lodge: 

The Economic Landscape has definitely changed in the last two years.  With the exception of the Mountain Parks many members of our Association have been hit very hard with a falling economy.  As with many economic turns it is like riding a wave, we fly high while its good but we battle through it when things are tough.  I do believe things are slowly starting to turnaround however during these times it is important for our Association to continue to find ways of supporting our members.  Introducing new member value programs that can assist with saving money, lobbying of government to represent our industry with upcoming taxation and to represent our industry in regards to our labour needs.

Labour is another issue with the new Alberta government, and while they are implementing a electoral platform of increasing the minimum wage, it is imperative to educate this government of how tourism can play its part in a diversified economy.

I believe that the AHLA has to provide the government with tangible data be it on labour concerns and how these changes are affecting our industry as a whole.  The number of closures to layoffs as a possible result of the minimum wage increase and how the timing of this with the carbon tax and with possible upcoming changes to the labour laws.

Pam Hesse, OStays Calgary: 

I think the major concern for our industry with the new changes that are being planned to the labour market is the increase to the minimum wage.  I believe, for the most part, hoteliers in Alberta are already paying their staff well above this minimum wage, but if they are not, this gives those the opportunity to gradually faze in these increases, so the final increase of labour costs do not hit their bottom line as hard.  The AHLA should be spearheading this to make sure that all members are on board, and perhaps offer some guidance to those that are not, with how they can increase their revenues to offset the coming increases in wages.

Alberta’s Labour Relations Code has not been updated in over 30 years, and I believe that some changes are warranted.  The AHLA can certainly respond to this by providing information to the current government on challenges that our sector are facing including labour shortages in some areas, and ensure that the hotelier’s voices are heard when changes to the Code are proposed.  If changes are coming that has hoteliers concerned about unionization and other changes that will be set out to protect employees, then the AHLA should use their Employer of Choice program and encourage those employers that are concerned, to use this program as their guideline.  If they are an Employer of Choice, then employees will not be as concerned about their job security and will not consider unionization.

Leanne Shaw, General Manager, Country Inn & Suites by Carlson:  

As the economic downturn continues and our government moves forward on their promised increase to minimum wage and the recent introduction of the carbon levy the cost of operating continues to rise.  The outcomes of the current reviews of both the Labour Relations Code and the Employment Standards Code could again prove to add more cost to our industry at a time when many of us can least afford it.

The AHLA needs to continue to be the voice of industry with government.  Although we have seen our recent efforts on issues such as minimum wage fall on what seem to be deaf ears the AHLA together with industry must continue to work together to ensure that our position on issues that affect us are presented to the elected officials who represent us.

In addition through our Employer of Choice program the AHLA can assist all hoteliers in the province work on strategies to keep a motivated and engaged workforce.  As we prepare for more changes to minimum wage and potentially other costly changes under the Employment Standards and Labour Relations Codes it is imperative that we continue to make our properties great places for our employees to work.

Finally there are also opportunities for the AHLA to lead on programs and services that will continue to help all of us with contain the costs of operating in a carbon priced economy.

 

The AHLA estimates that in 2015 alone, OTAs generated over $77 million in commissions in Alberta, retaining $3.6 million in Tourism Levy. The AHLA has been working to inform government officials about the impacts of OTAs on the industry and on provincial revenues. What else do you think stakeholders like the AHLA and Travel Alberta should be doing to address this issue?

Chris Barr, General Manager, Banff Aspen Lodge: 

It will be a very difficult process for our industry to eliminate OTA’s all together.  The marketing power that companies like Expedia and Booking.com have is relied upon by our industry to ensure that their business is visible.  However at the same time we must ensure that our industry is not overrun or taken advantage of by the power of OTA’s.

The AHLA has taken steps with the introduction of Check In Canada to assist hotels with another platform that will help reduce the bookings made by OTA’s.  The development of this program is a great asset to our industry.

I believe that our membership and bylaws need to be reviewed to ensure that we are not accepting members who are working on the home sharing platform and who are not subject to the same fees of our industry are not members of our association.  We must represent our membership as an industry that is subject to equal fees as a whole.

We must continue to work with Travel Alberta as our industry continues to contribute the Tourism Levy; to ensure that home sharing will also contribute to the tourism levy.  We have seen new marketing initiatives set forth by Travel Alberta in conjunction with OTA’s directing bookings to the OTA websites while not collecting the Tourism Levy.  This is an issue that needs to be addressed and educate Travel Alberta on how this impacts our industry.

Pam Hesse, OStays Calgary: 

I think we need to protect the Tourism Levy the OTA’s are collecting and not providing to the province.  Travel Alberta with the AHLA’ assistance should pursue legal recourse to ensure that these funds are provided appropriately.  The AHLA must continue to make the government aware of these funds that are not being properly transferred after they are collected from the customers.

Leanne Shaw, General Manager, Country Inn & Suites by Carlson: 

This issue is twofold.  One side is the push for OTAs to pay taxes to governments based on the price charged to the guest not on the net amount paid to hotels. The other side of the issue is to continue to find ways to work to drive direct bookings to our hotels. Programs such as Check in Canada have the potential to help drive more profitable bookings to our members.  Working with Travel Alberta to ensure that more of their campaigns are designed to drive traffic back through the Travel Alberta website and therefore bookings though the Check in Canada provides a win win win scenario, the hotels get the direct bookings, the full amount of tax is remitted to both levels of government and Travel Alberta is able to continue to tell the destination story to a consumer who is engaged with their brand.

 

Municipalities have long sought the authority to tax hotels. We saw this recently in Fox Creek, and it remains a concern as the provincial government updates the Municipal Government Act. How do you think the AHLA should address this threat?

Chris Barr, General Manager, Banff Aspen Lodge: 

This issue has the potential to severely impact our industry.  The AHLA did a fantastic job in supporting the Fox Creek municipality with stopping the taxation of the hotel industry in Fox Creek and the possibility of those funds not going to tourism but to assist with public infrastructure.

It is important for the AHLA to continue to identify these issues and to continue to support our members with unfair taxation within.  With the upcoming updates to the Municipal Government Act it is important for the AHLA to speak to government officials about how this affects our industry.

Tourism is a key contributor within the diversification of the economy, this should not be a burden to our industry, it should be considered an asset.

Pam Hesse, OStays Calgary:  

This is a major concern, as any additional taxes on our room rates will make the hotels in these municipalities less competitive than other regions where no municipal tax is added to the room rates.

I believe that the AHLA has already begun a lobby process and legal challenge to this. We need to keep this up in order to provide the current government with this information so the can make informed decisions on how this will affect the competiveness of hotels in these municipalities. There is a chance that Alberta could ultimately lose tourism business to other provinces if this type taxation is allowed.

Leanne Shaw, General Manager, Country Inn & Suites by Carlson: 

The AHLA needs to continue to lobby the provincial government to oppose any new taxes on hotels in the province. Additionally the AHLA needs to continue to work in conjunction with the local hotel associations in Calgary and Edmonton to help them oppose the granting of the authority to levy a hotel tax in two municipalities as part of the City Charters.

 

What are the top three issues would you like to see the AHLA focus on in 2017-18? As a board member, how would you lead on this?

Chris Barr, General Manager, Banff Aspen Lodge: 

  • Home Sharing Platforms – as a board member I will provide full support to the AHLA staff in ensuring that equality within the industry is attained.
  • Government Relations – as a board member I am happy to meet with any member of government to assist with educating how decisions will impact our industry.
  • Labour – Be it minimum wage or the potential of changes to the labour laws, as a director I will continue to support and vocalize concerns as necessary.

Pam Hesse, OStays Calgary: 

  1. Ensuring that AirBnB hosts are legislated to charge both GST and Tourism Levy to their guests. By doing so, it will help keep hotels competitive with these hosts.
  1. Educate the current government on how important tourism is for the province, especially when the government is talking of diversification to move the province away from its oil dependency. Tourism is a natural fit in this area and the more support our industry and tourism in Alberta receives from the current government, the more competitive and successful our hoteliers will be.
  1. We need to prevent individual municipalities from imposing additional taxes on our guests, making Alberta hotels less competitive for destination bookings.

 

As a board member of the AHLA, I see the need to lead our members in ensuring that they know their current sitting MLA’s and inspire each and everyone to meet with these MLA’s in their district.

I believe, for those uncomfortable with this process, as a board member we should encourage and offer to accompany those AHLA members on these meetings.

So much needs to be done on a government and legislative level, and it is important for all MLA’s to understand what the important matters are for our members and how their assistance can help the individual hoteliers, their employees, and the entire tourism industry in Alberta to succeed.

We need to ensure that any changes in current legislation favour our businesses, big and small. Communication with the current government is key, and we need to show our support for whichever party is forming our government, regardless of our own personal preferences.

Leanne Shaw, General Manager, Country Inn & Suites by Carlson: 

The online home-sharing threat is real Although still at its infancy in Alberta with Airbnb reporting just over 77 000 inbound guests booked in Alberta 2015 this number will continue to grow exponentially.  The number of listings in Calgary alone grew from just 1000 in 2015 to over 2600 in 2017.  As a board member I would ensure that this issue is part of the ongoing discussions with government and work to tighten up our own association bylaws to preclude these “accommodation providers” from being regular members in our association.

The second issue I would like to continue to work on is the ongoing threat to the tourism marketing funding model in Alberta.  The combination of the tax loss to government through OTAs and the possibility of municipalities gaining the authority to levy an additional tax on hotels thereby putting in jeopardy the voluntary DMFs that contribute millions of dollars to local tourism could be devastating to our industry. At a time when Travel Alberta continues to see their funding cut due to provincial economic realities and local DMOs have to face the possibility of reduced coop and municipal funding we cannot afford to continue to see millions of Tourism Levy dollars stay with companies like Expedia or DMF dollars go to a hotel tax that would arguably not support local tourism marketing.

Finally our members continue to feel that they are under attack from all directions with regards to the continued rise in the cost of operations that are directly related to government legislation.  From minimum wage and carbon levy to the potential changes in the Employment Standards and Labour Relations Code we need to continue as an association to find ways to help our members with programs and services that will better arm them to mitigate the costs associated with these changes as well as continue to grow an motivated and engaged workforce that will deliver on the customer experience we need to be successful.

 

 

By | 2017-05-10T08:42:57+00:00 March 14, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet Your Board Nominees