LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — Stronger together was the theme of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association Conference held April 18-20 — an apt theme when much of the province is reeling from the drop in oil prices.
“Alberta's economy is challenging hoteliers in all four corners of the province,” the conference program stated. “Stronger Together, the theme of this year's convention, underscores the need for AHLA members to combine their efforts to build a strong and vibrant tourism industry that benefits all Albertans.”
Held at the Chateau Lake Louise in Lake Louise, Alta., the conference attendance was lower than in previous years, with many hotels sending one delegate rather than a few. The association remains strong, however, reporting a 99 per cent member retention rate despite the bad economy.
The conference kicked off with Mark Bowden, author of Train the Primitive Brain, giving delegates a lesson on body language. His talk resonated as many of the subsequent speakers made reference to his comments on where to put your hands to create the right impression on your audience.
The trade show took place on Sunday night and Monday morning. The Alberta Hospitality Safety Association took the prize for Best Booth, and exhibitors provided many prizes for delegates.
Conference sessions emphasized solar and new energy technology, climate change policy impacts, and cutting waste to cut costs — all of which is timely given the carbon tax announced in the budget of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley last Thursday.
One of the most interesting sessions was presented by Grace Xin of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, dealing with welcoming Chinese Travellers. Her message was that the Chinese traveller is wealthy, well-educated and used to new and luxurious hotel accommodations. It's no longer enough to have a hot pot in the room — but a little bit of understanding the Chinese culture goes a long way.
The conference received some press coverage by China's largest news service, Xinhua News Agency, as Li Baodong reported on the meeting and Alberta tourism attractions.
Housekeeping Awards, Gold Key Awards and Employer of Choice celebrations were all part of the conference.
On Tuesday night, AHLA president and CEO Dave Kaiser honoured Tony Pollard, who will be retiring from the Hotel Association of Canada at the end of August, with a Life Membership in the AHLA. Former AHLA chair Doug Shandro also received a Life Membership. Bill Fowler, who has been with the AHLA for a few decades, received a Lifetime Achievement Award. (He also received a package of Cheezies, his favourite!) Peter Parmar, vice-president of operations for Nova Hotels, received an Award of Distinction.
Outgoing chair Steve Watters, general manager of Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre in Fort MacMurray, Alta., handed over the gavel to Perry Batke, general manager, Best Western Denham Inn and Suites, Leduc, Alta.
The next AHLA Conference will be held April 9-11, 2017 at Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alta.