By Chris Barr, AHLA Board Chair

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus, it is difficult to witness the devastating impact this pandemic has had on our lives.

I, like so many others, never truly realized quite how much our lives would change. Hotels have suffered reduced cash flows and significantly lower staffing levels. Properties around the province are struggling to survive, while some are even facing bankruptcy. Even with a vaccine on the horizon, recovery for our industry remains a long way off.

Now, more than ever, the AHLA will continue to work with, and for, our members to continue our focus on advocacy, resources, and sustainability. These priorities mean we must focus our work at a time when financial resources and available staff — at both our member hotels and at the AHLA — are greatly impacted.

Advocating for the Interests of Our Members

Over the next year, the AHLA will continue to lobby government for tax relief for hotels, labour policy that makes sense, support for re-purposing distressed properties, and reduction of unfair competition for hotels by limiting short-term rentals to principal residences.

However, the most urgent issue we are tackling is the cost and availability of property insurance. Premium increases or the inability to secure insurance has become an issue for every hotel, regardless of what broker they are using. Insurers are limiting their exposure to the hospitality industry because of high loss ratios and reduced capacity as a result of COVID-19 impacts on capital markets.

This issue is not unique to the hotel industry, nor to Alberta.

The AHLA has asked to join the national working group that the Insurance Bureau of Canada has struck to address the issue of insurance for the hospitality industry.

The AHLA’s current insurance program was launched in 2005 as a result of a similar hard market scenario. At that time, the challenge was with liability, not property insurance. The AHLA Services Corporation’s Board of Directors will be doing a full review of our program to ensure it continues to deliver value to AHLA members.

Building Relationships

Everything we do is based on relationships with members, as these are essential to increasing engagement. In the new year, we will be allocating resources to deepen relationships with members and owners of multi-property groups.

Making Membership More Affordable

One of the ways we are supporting our members is through our new membership model, which includes a reduction in the base fee as well as loyalty discounts that reward participation in AHLA cost-management programs. We have heard positive feedback from a number of members about these changes, and we hope the new model will allow more hotels to manage their operating costs while continuing to support advocacy that benefits them.

Changes to AHLA Programming for 2021

Based on the input of the Boards of Directors of the AHLA and AHLA Services Corporation, as well as the HR Advisory Council (HRAC), the AHLA will be focusing our resources and implementing some significant changes in 2021:

  • Retiring the Housekeeping Awards, and instead encouraging hotels to make the AHLA Safe Accommodation Promise (ASAP) to their staff & guests.
  • Pausing the Employer of Choice program and annual wage survey.
  • Pausing in-class safety training to align with public health orders, and instead delivering training in a format that can be completed at the user’s convenience.
  • Providing HR resources to support operational staff who are now wearing multiple hats in their hotel, on topics such as:
    • Mental health
    • Legislation & regulations
    • Effective HR practices
    • Directory of resources

Board Elections

If you have never served on the AHLA board, I encourage you to consider it. The direction of a strong, diverse board is more important than ever. If you are interested in nominating someone, you will need to submit your nomination by 4 p.m. on Friday, February 26. We will post the nomination form on our website in the new year.

We Are Stronger Together

The AHLA belongs to its members. When we work together, our association’s size and determination demands the attention of policy makers. If you need support, I encourage you to reach out to the association, or to contact me or any other board member to discuss how the AHLA can serve you.