This last year was arguably the most difficult in the history of Alberta hotels. Together, the AHLA and its 700+ member hotels have worked earnestly to overcome 2020’s many challenges.
Improving Access to Health & Safety Information and Training
We began the year on a positive note, welcoming all Alberta hotels as safety subscribers as the Alberta Hospitality Safety Association (AHSA) amalgamated with the AHLA. This means the AHLA is now your one-stop shop for health & safety information and training resources for all properties under WCB industry code 87503.
COVID-19: Operating in the “New Normal”
When the first COVID-19 lockdown was announced in March, little did we know how drastically business — and life in general — would change. Hotels scrambled to figure out how to operate in what would hopefully be a short-term situation. The AHLA connected with Alberta Health Services and, shortly afterwards, released its first COVID-19 Guide for Alberta Hotels and its COVID-19 web pages to help properties operate in the new environment and to provide best practices for temporary closure, if necessary.
As the situation worsened, it became apparent that COVID-19 was here to stay. The AHLA adapted its COVID-19 Guide into the Staying Safe Guide to help hoteliers reopen safely and successfully under current legislation and public health recommendations. At the request of members, the AHLA announced the AHLA Safe Accommodation Promise (ASAP) in November. Now, hotels can apply for a new designation that shows staff and guests that their properties take health and safety seriously. Since its launch only two months ago, 78 hotels have received the 2021 ASAP designation.
Ensuring the Government Hears the Voice of the Industry
As COVID brought the travel industry to a virtual standstill, it became apparent that liquidity would be a prime concern for Alberta hotels. The AHLA responded by shifting its advocacy priorities for 2020 to focus on the immediate needs of our members.
Alberta hotels united to work through the AHLA to ensure our industry’s concerns were heard by government. Over the year, the AHLA’s member hotels were able to:
- Have the Tourism Levy abated to March 31, 2021, allowing them to keep an additional 4% over and above room revenues.
- Have temporary layoffs extended to 180 days for all hotels and then twice more to December 31 and March 31, 2021 for AHLA members only.
- Get access to Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grants, which were not available to hotels when they were first announced. We encourage any hotels that have not yet applied to do so as soon as possible.
- Provide input to the Government of Alberta and Travel Alberta on provincial tourism strategy to ensure the interests of Alberta hotels were considered in both their 10-Year Tourism Strategy and the 2020-22 Alberta (Re)Bound Strategy.
- Came one step closer to fair rules for short-term rentals (STRs) when the provincial government announced STRs would be required to pay the Tourism Levy. The AHLA will continue to stand up for its members by working with the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) on their #FairRules campaign.
- Work with the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) on joint advocacy efforts for the hardest hit industries in Canada. Thanks to these efforts, hotels were able to benefit from an increase to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and various other new funding programs.
Despite the AHLA’s request, the government was unable to provide an increase in VLT commissions for hotels and credit on liquor mark-up. The AHLA continues to advocate for relief for utility payments for hotels.
Addressing the Insurance Crisis
In the last few months of 2020, hotels across Canada found they were unable to secure insurance coverage as a result of recent changes within the commercial insurance market. The AHLA, along with its partner, Western Financial Group Insurance Solutions, worked together to help AHLA members find solutions to this problem, and will continue to do so into 2021.
New Member Benefits & Changes
As the pandemic continued to batter the hotel industry, the AHLA made some adjustments to membership dues and benefits to serve our members as effectively as possible:
- Making membership more affordable, including a reduction in base membership fees for all members — as well as liquor and VLT fees — and rewarding loyalty for participation in the AHLA’s cost-management programs.
- Introducing new, members-only Quarterly Innsight webinars, at which AHLA President & CEO Dave Kaiser shares the market realities that are affecting hotels, and how the AHLA is responding. More than 90 people attended the first and second sessions. Mark your calendars for the next Quarterly Innsight on March 24 at 1-2:30 p.m.!
- Replacing its annual convention with the first-ever Ascend. As a virtual event this year, the program focused on economic recovery for hotels, and the 150 hotels in attendance heard from top tourism, real estate, and financial advisors. The event received many positive reviews and we look forward to Ascend in 2021.
- Refocusing its resources. The Housekeeping Awards are being retired, and instead hotels are encouraged to make the AHLA Safe Accommodation Promise (ASAP) to their staff & guests. As well, the Employer of Choice program and annual wage survey have been paused so the AHLA can prioritize the economic recovery of its members.
We are starting to a see a light at the end of the tunnel with the emergence of COVID-19 vaccines, but the hotel industry still has a long way to go to full recovery. The AHLA is proud to be your association, and we will continue to bring together Alberta hotels to ensure the industry survives and thrives.