As president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada, Susie Grynol is at the eye of the hurricane that is COVID-19 and its devastating effect on Canadian hotels.
“We are surviving,” she told CLN. “It’s been extremely intense and not a day of rest since this started in early March, but we remain incredibly motivated to support our sector through this historically devastating period. What gets us through is how appreciative our members are of our work and the payoff when governments listen to us.”
Grynol notes that the HAC has been active in four areas: government lobbying for relief for the sector; driving media headlines to support their policy work; member communication on relevant government programs; and interface between public health and hotels. This last area includes hotels being used for quarantine, hospital overflow etc.
The HAC’s advocacy work is centred on three main pillars: access to liquidity and relief from fixed costs; support for employees including wage subsidy, employment insurance, etc.; and a recovery stimulus package.
“We have achieved several important wins so far,” Grynol noted. “After sustained and intense lobbying, ALL our members will qualify for the wage subsidy. The government has pushed back GST payment requirements, they have deferred mortgage payments, provided liquidity up to $6.25 million for each corporate entity, and provided $2,000 a month for our employees who are laid off and who haven’t yet been hired back”.
Governments are also preparing for the possible scenario of hotels being used to house non-COVID-19 patients, but to date only one hotel has actually received non-COVID patients. In the Province of Quebec, 6,000 rooms are being held in case there is a need.
“Hotels have answered the call of public health and are serving local communities in incredible ways, whether it’s free rooms for frontline workers, supporting shelters, offering a safe place for people to self-isolate, or helping hospitals with overflow,” Grynol said.
“We have lost over 250,000 jobs,” she added. “Most hotels in Canada are closed. Occupancy is sitting at less than 5 per cent as a national average. It’s been incredibly hard on our employees. Many are concerned about their next pay check and feeding their families.
“The government has done a good job of ensuring that our employees have coverage, whether it’s through the wage subsidy program or bolstered Employment Insurance, but getting that money out the door remains a challenge.”
The HAC has developed a suite of information documents to support members in managing COVID in a hotel setting. They have also been speaking to the media, understanding government programs, and providing a weekly webinar series to ensure that members have the latest data.
The next HAC webinar will be held on Friday, April 17 at 2 p.m. Its title is Navigating COVID-19: Untangling the Complex Web of Employment Rights, Remedies and Relief. The guest speaker is Mark Ellis, partner at Baker McKenzie LLP, nicknamed by the BBC as “the SARS Czar” during that Toronto-based crisis. Mark will take members through the programs announced to date and field any questions they may have on how to operationalize these programs. To join the webinar, register here.
Grynol will also be participating in another webinar hosted by Colliers and CFO Capital on Thursday, April 16. Sign up for that webinar here.
“We have also created a COVID-specific microsite for our members and it is updated daily,” Grynol noted. “Beyond this, Public Health has a number of resources that are helpful. These are also featured on our site.”