BANFF, Alta. — Dave Kaiser president and CEO of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association told members at the group's Centennial Conference, held at The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel last week, that the association's main issues include short-term rentals and DMFs. They are making progress on both fronts but the battles are not over. On a positive note, the AHLA is now mortgage free! Kaiser also announced that the Centennial conference was the last of its kind.
Short term rentals have been a growing issue over the past several years. While the RevPAR of hotels in the province is 23 per cent lower than it was five years ago, their costs are constantly increasing. Throw into the mix this statistic: Statistics Canada recently released numbers showing that short-term rentals are now a $2.8 billion dollar industry in Canada. Alberta's share of that business is $152 million.
“The average RevPAR in the province is $74, and If you do some reverse engineering, that equates to 56 100-room hotels in the province,” said Kaiser. “And the Alberta revenue from short-term rentals was just $8 million three years ago.
“We have a serious threat that is disrupting our business model. It has morphed into something more than home sharing — short-term rentals are a new class of real estate.”
Destination Marketing Fees
AHLA has battled DMFs twice: the first time in Fox Creek, Alta., and the second time this past year in Calgary.
AHLA's policy position, which it relayed to the now-elected UPC government in a position paper, is that tourism, as an economic driver in the province, should be in the Economic Development portfolio, not under Culture or Recreation, as it has been.
AHLA is also looking at how to fund 100 per cent of the tourism levy for the benefit of tourism. One potential idea is to move the tax out of government and into an industry-driven organization.
The existing DMF system is not perfect, but they want to lock down the DMF system in Alberta in a model that is not prescriptive, but provides overusing of a legitimized system.
Their second strategic goal is to engage members. The association was pleased to see that over 300 delegates were attending the Annual Convention in Banff this year. But, Kaiser noted, the structure of the industry is evolving — there are fewer family-owned and operated businesses. One example is the Dunvegan Inn and Suites in Fairview, Alta. Betty James, owner, won a major award at AHLA not long ago. Holloway Lodging Corporation is now managing the hotel, and Amr Awad, senior vice president at Holloway is on the board of directors of AHLA.
Kaiser added that management companies and brands will now be included at AHLA regional meetings.
The five biggest issues for AHLA members are: the current economic situation; improving occupancy and ADR; labour costs; staff recruitment and retention; and maintenance and state of repair.
The AHLA has created the AHLA Services Corp. to separate the member benefits partnerships out of the association's other functions. The member benefits include property insurance, health plans, and the gas and electricity programs with Alberta Gas and Enmax respectively.
At the AHLA office, they are 73 per cent through a major CRM and financial software upgrade.
Human resource challenge hasn't gone away
The labour shortage in Alberta hasn't gone away, and the AHLA is working on several initiatives including:
— The Olds College's Tourism Works Training, which is now ready.
— Work with David Lund who has a strong reputation as a hotel financial coach. They now have a video series that they can market all over Canada and beyond.
— A wage survey that is important for both government and members.
— Designation as a delivery agent for Destination Employment, which is working to connect newcomers to Canada to jobs in the hospitality industry.
No more mortgage
An some very good news is that the association has paid off the mortgage it took on nine years ago when it opened its new office in Edmonton.
“We have taken a number of risks [like this] of the the course of history,” said Kaiser. “That is why were are still here 100 years later.”
Aspire and Ascend 2020
For many years, the AHLA annual conference has been held over three or more days in the Rockies, at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Banff Conference Centre, and for this year, the Centennial, at The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Kaiser announced that this was the last conference of its kind.
Next year, there will be two shorter conferences:
On Monday, April 20, 2020, AHLA will host Aspire at the Doubletree by Hilton West Edmonton. Aspire 2020 is an affordable way for hotels to invest in their Housekeeping, Front Office, Human Resources and Administration staff with practical training and professional development. For information visit www.ahla.ca/aspire.
On September 21 and 22, 2020, AHLA will hold Ascend 2020, a one- and a-half day event that will give Alberta's hotel industry leaders and investors the data, information and insight they require to inform their business strategy, forecasts and budgets. Visit www.ahla.ca/ascend for more information and updates.