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By Elaine Anselmi, Assistant Editor
With new facilities being built all over the country, it’s clear that hotel pools and waterparks are no passing trend. Despite what waterpark manufacturer Bruce Dalen calls a “slight blip during the recession,” he says, “frankly, Canada has hardly missed a beat.
“We have great repeat customers building right through the economic slowdown.”
These full service leisure centres offer guests fitness, fun and a family-friendly option. While the cost of construction and restrictions imposed by regulations are nothing small, hoteliers are weighing the pros and cons and diving in.
Dalen has been in the business of building and manufacturing waterslides since 1979 and says, “30 years ago a waterpark might have been a fad, but the fact is it continues to grow.”
Dalen’s organization, hotelwaterparks.com works with clients to make the addition of slides and pools of various sizes possible.
“Rather than just be a supplier of waterslides, we’ve decided to just take the bull by the horns,” says Dalen. “We see what the operator is really looking for and that’s return on investment.”
Dalen’s experience in the industry has provided many examples of the profit to be made on installing leisure facilities. Hotelwaterparks.com works with manufacturers and builders to make custom built pools and slides that can function even in smaller establishments.
“There’s always the regulatory and insurance costs,” he says. “But the additional financial benefit clearly offsets that by a long shot.”
A cruise ship on land
Keith Simmonds, general manager of Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, ON says his hotel’s “biggest attraction is the convenience of the exclusive all in one location.”
And that location – or should we say den? – includes entertainment, food, amenities, and a 100,000 square ft. waterpark.
While the spa and poolside bars keep the parents happy, 13 slides, four pools and a lazy river provide endless wet and wild entertainment for kids from toddlers to teens, and up.
“It’s like a cruise ship on land. Get on board and everything is there where you need it,” says Simmonds.
Great Wolf Lodge may be land-locked, but it’s easy to see it’s no ordinary hotel. The staff is referred to as a “Wolf Pack” and a key job requirement is the ability to howl.
Great Wolf, owned by the Jim Patterson Group, opened in 2006 and has seen great success in their kid-focused approach, says Simmonds.
“Because of the unique nature of our business, it allows us to attract visitors year round.”
Sleep, slide, service
The Travelodge Regina’s 5,000 square ft. waterpark also provides guests with hours of entertainment under the same roof. General manager Ryan Urzada says his hotel waterpark includes a waterslide as well as a play structure and dry slide.
Urzada, whose location was named Hotel of the Year at Travelodge Canada’s recent annual conference, says the waterpark isn’t the only thing keeping the Travelodge beds full, but it certainly plays a part.
“Brand is a factor, location is a factor, and the waterpark is a factor, but it’s having a combination [that leads to success],” says Urzada. “It’s one of the driving factors for having strong weekends and summer business.”
Filling up the beds
In July 2011 the Delta Beausejour in Moncton added a 150 ft. waterslide to their existing hotel in hopes of growing their weekend market, says general manager, Ray Roberge. And, that goal was met with an increase of eight per cent on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Beausejour’s pool was built in 1972 as an outdoor pool, but 15 years later was incorporated into the building as an indoor facility. Roberge says although enclosing a pool and adding the slide was expensive, he feels it is more of a risk not to have these facilities.
“The consumer expectation went from outdoor pool, to indoor pool, to waterslide,” says Roberge. “The leisure component is really important to the hotel.” And, the addition of the slide contributed to an increase of 4,000 rooms in a year.
When adding the waterslide, Roberge says, a lot of thought was put into making it thrilling for adults as well, so much so that it has a height requirement.
“In fact we’re looking at adding a smaller one with less height requirement for younger kids,” he says.
Amenities like pools and waterparks can be a deciding factor on where to stay, particularly for guests such as sports teams and families.
Play safe, have fun
“Pools are a welcome amenity that makes your property more attractive and boosts sales,” says Bruce Gravel, president of the Ontario Accommodation Association. He notes that even resorts with beach and waterfront properties will construct pools due to guest demand.
He cautions that while they are generally a positive addition to an establishment, you have to be well aware of regulations, and it’s important to contact your trade associations for advice on this.
Regulations vary from province to province he says, but are posted on ministry websites.
In Ontario for example, Gravel says, pool bottoms must be painted a light colour or white, and unlike residential pools, life saving equipment and an emergency phone must be in close proximity.
Hotel pools are considered Class B pools, says Gravel. No lifeguard is required, but ‘swim at own risk’ signage must be posted, and water chemical levels tested. “It is a big ongoing situation for a pool to be properly maintained, but operators do that because the benefit does outweigh [the drawbacks].”
Testing the waters
“For new builds, not putting a pool in, in most instances would probably be a mistake,” says Roberge. “Certainly provincial legislation determines what is required but we make sure we are more than following what they say.”
At Travelodge Regina, Urzada says safe practice and improvement is always a consideration. “We attend a waterpark conference every year, “ he says.
The World Waterpark Association, which held its 32nd annual conference in October in Las Vegas, provides educational sessions on the safety of guests and staff, lifeguarding and practices.
“There’s a lot of kids, a lot of water; safety is our number one priority,” says Simmonds. At Great Wolf, lifeguards and first aid are on site in case of any incidents.
“We make it as convenient, secure and safe as possible.”