TORONTO — Since the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association launched Check In Canada on Jan. 1, 2014, the website has grown to include almost 1,200 properties representing all four Western Canadian provinces — and Ontario is next.
At the time of writing, the website featured almost 600 Alberta hotels, 409 from B.C., 86 from Manitoba and 81 from Saskatchewan — and almost 600 Ontario properties were expected to go live on the website “by about mid-April,” according to Tony Elenis,
president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA). Check In Canada allows consumers to search hotels and book directly with their chosen property.
Elenis said that by the go-live date, the website could feature additional Ontario hotels over and above the planned 600 properties, which include “a good mix” of independents and chains, as well as limited- and full-service and convention properties. He added that long-term plans call for the site to feature upwards of 1,000 Ontario properties. For the first year, participating Ontario hotels pay no fee, but in the second year, they pay a fee, on a graduated scale, that’s equivalent to about “one or two nights’ stay,” said Elenis.
Planat accessibility information
Ontario properties feature Planat information detailing their accessibility features. Each hotel completes an evaluation of its accessibility components and if it qualifies, can display a Planat logo on its Check In Canada entry.
Plans call for Check In Canada to integrate Planat information into its entire program, said Dave Kaiser, president and CEO of the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association, which launched the website and continues to spearhead the project, with support from the Hotel Association of Canada.
Kaiser said there’s “no firm timeline” for integrating Planat accessibility information and called it a “differentiator” for the site.
HAC president Tony Pollard said “Check In Canada is a top priority for the Hotel Association of Canada and is fully supported by our national board of directors.” Since the site’s launch, it has attracted more than 6 million hits and last summer, garnered more than 3,000 unique visitors per month, according to Kaiser.
Also featured on Check In Canada hotels is Green Key eco-friendly certification information and consumer-generated TrustScores evaluating each property in key areas such as guestrooms and service.
Longer-term, aggregating properties nationally is a potential goal, said Kaiser, and to that end, Check In Canada is “keeping tabs on other provinces” and has “had discussions with Nova Scotia.” First priority, however, is to “get the template right” and ensure that the B.C. and Ontario sections are running properly, he said.
Key to the website’s success is marketing and to that end, Check In Canada is “working closely” with Travel Alberta, which is providing referrals through their site and U.S. sites, said Kaiser. Plans are also afoot, he said, to work with provincial tourism marketing organizations and Canada’s largest 25 city destination marketing organizations to target tourists, working toward the ultimate goal whereby “Check In Canada would be the hotel booking platform for every PMO and DMO in the country.”
Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation’s website homepage features Check In Canada, and Visitor Information Centres throughout Ontario highlight the service, said Elenis. In Alberta, Visitor Information Centre staff members refer tourists’ call-in or walk-in hotel queries to the site and can book rooms directly on behalf of tourists, said Kaiser.