Chris Barr, Board Chair, shares highlights from AHLA’s latest board meeting

After what feels like an impossibly long year, Alberta hotels continue to struggle in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Occupancy and RevPAR continue at some of their lowest levels in the history of Alberta, and hotels are struggling to cover basic operating expenses.

As hoteliers, the AHLA’s Board of Directors understands your pain of trying to maintain business operations during these unprecedented circumstances. Through it all, we have been encouraged by our members’ unyielding determination to come together and ensure that government hears our voice. This resulted in a number of significant advocacy wins over the last year:

Thank you to our members for continuing to be so engaged. I encourage you to continue to speak out for the industry by talking to your MLAs about the challenges you are facing and the support our sector needs to survive.

Helping Hotels Get Through the Pandemic

At the last meeting, your Board of Directors discussed how to arm Alberta hotels with the tools they need to get through this next phase of the pandemic, guided by the three strategic goals of the AHLA:

1. Advocacy to Support Industry Recovery

The Alberta hotel industry continues to need strong government support to survive. Over the next several months, the AHLA will continue to advocate for:

  • Further extensions to temporary layoffs beyond June 30, if needed.
  • Extending the Tourism Levy abatement to at least June 30, 2021.
  • Seeking priority vaccinations for hotel employees living in congregate housing.
  • Asking that the government alter Step 2 of its re-opening plan to:
    • Allow VLTs to re-open with the same restrictions as in-person dining,
    • Allow structured meetings with capacity restrictions to take place in conference centres and banquet rooms, and
    • Increase capacity for swimming pools.

The Board also encourages hotels to talk to their staff about getting vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible. This will:

  • Protect your employees and their families,
  • Protect their colleagues and guests, and
  • Reduce the spread of COVID-19, making it possible for people to gather and travel sooner.

Your Board of Directors meets regularly with industry stakeholders to ensure they understand the challenges facing your business and our industry. We were pleased to be joined by Deborah Nilsen, WCB Industry Specialist for hotels, who provided us with an overview of changes coming as a result of Bill 47, as well as industry data.

Travel Alberta CEO David Goldstein joined the AHLA’s Board for more than 90 minutes to provide insight on what Travel Alberta will be doing to help restart tourism in the province, and to hear first-hand about how hotels are doing. Mr. Goldstein will be attending another AHLA board meeting in the near future, and he has invited AHLA President & CEO Dave Kaiser to a future Travel Alberta board meeting.

2. Delivery of Programs & Services That Drive Member Value

Although last year’s virtual sessions were a great way to kick off our new annual Ascend conference, your Board of Directors believes it is critical that we show government that hotels are safe and ready for meetings and events. We are committed to making Ascend an in-person event, and will finalize a date when restrictions lift.

3. Ensuring the Sustainability of the AHLA

The Board approved the AHLA’s 2020 Audited Financial Statements as they appear in the 2020 Annual Report.

Board of Directors Update

Our April 8 meeting was the final one for director Stefan Nasalski of Pomeroy Hotels. We appreciate his contributions to the board and the association, and look forward to welcoming new directors Joumana Ghandour and Tyson Ghostkeeper. I encourage every member to consider serving on the AHLA’s Board of Directors.

Continuing to Work Together

Thank you to all of our members for entrusting the AHLA to represent your interests as we face the many challenges of the pandemic. I encourage you to reach out to the association, at WeHelpHotels@ahla.ca or to contact me or any other board member to discuss how the AHLA can serve you.