How Niagara’s Heart of Hope campaign began

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — Niagara Falls was one of the first and most visible cities to promote Hearts of Hope during COVID-19. CLN spoke to Patrick Regina, area GM for Marriott Hotels about the campaign, which has now spread across the country. Canadian hotels also honoured the victims of Nova Scotia's mass shooting with lights and by dressing in red.
Niagara’s Heart of Hope campaign — the beginning of a trend!

NIAGARA FALLS — Friday, March 20 was a tough day at the end of a tough week at the two Marriott properties in Niagara Falls, the 432-room Marriott Fallsview and Spa and the 404-key Marriott on the Falls Hotel. Area GM Patrick Regina had just closed the Marriott on the Falls, and had said good-bye to laid off staff at both hotels. Some of the staff and the assistant general manager decided that they would illuminate 60 rooms in the shape of a heart.

“I was driving by that night and saw the shape of a heart,” Regina told CLN. “I liked it, but I wondered if we were going to get in trouble for this!”

Instead, the heart was the start of something big. The mayor called, and by Sunday, March 22, seven other Niagara hotels were doing it. CNN saw that they were doing it, and challenged other hoteliers to do the same. “Next thing we knew, in Vegas and New York City, everything was lighting up. It went viral — it was absolutely wonderful to see. The mayor was delighted that the hoteliers and casinos had got together to do this.

“It was a simple sign, a gesture for better tomorrows,” Regina said. “It was wonderful to see all the businesses in the community working as one. There are associations and business associations, but at a time like this, the fact that we all decided to work together was magical.”

River Cree Resort and Casino spells out a message of HOPE.

River Cree Resort and Casino in Alberta followed suit on April 10. The hotel, casino, arena and restaurants all closed March 17, but officials had staff open drapes and turn on lights to beam the word “HOPE” eastward towards their Edmonton neighbours. On the west side of the hotel, “440,” the band number of the Enoch Cree Nation was pointed towards residents that community. 

On April 12, the Greater Toronto Hotel Association urged hoteliers to paint the town purple to be #HospitalityStrong, with great participation.

And on April 22, Edmonton hotels were lit up as well as a tribute to the 90 per cent of hospitality workers who lost their jobs and are standing by to welcome guests again.

Canada’s worst mass shooting, which took place in Northern Nova Scotia recently, was also acknowledged in hotel lighting. Edmonton’s Fairmont Hotel MacDonald was lit up in red to honour those who lost their lives to gunman Gabriel Wortman.

Choice Hotels Canada paid tribute to those who died by doing something different — wearing red and taking a Zoom screenshot of Choice employees “standing in solidarity with our friends in Nova Scotia.”

“During our CHC team call this morning, we all proudly participated in #WearRedFriday to recognize those who lost their lives in the tragic events in Nova Scotia over the weekend, as well as their families, friends and colleagues who have been so deeply impacted,” Choice Hotels Canada president Brian Leon posted on social media on April 24.

“These are already extraordinarily difficult times, so we want to make sure our hotels in Nova Scotia know that they can reach out to our team if you need any support,” Leon continued.

“We’re keeping everyone in Nova Scotia in our thoughts.”