HAC 2017 celebrates 25 years

TORONTO – The 25th annual Hotel Association of Canada Conference, held Feb. 15-16 at the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel and Conference Centre, had record attendance thanks to a new location, interesting lineup of speakers and a chance to meet new HAC president Susie Grynol. Orie Berlasso of Big Picture Conferences confirmed that the 425 people at the conference set a record for the best attendance since 2005.

Calling HAC president Susie Grynol "a ball of change," outgoing chair Philippe Gadbois introduced her at the first conference since she took the reins of the association four months ago.

Grynol says the HAC's strength is its ability to influence policy thinking and drive political change. She acknowledged the contributions of her predecessor, Tony Pollard, and said she has three goals for the association:

— To build its profile as an association;

— To promote member engagement; and

— To streamline the advocacy profile.

She plans to distill the association's priorities down to one or two top priorities. "Being all things to all people is not a winning strategy," she told the audience, encouraging them to share their thoughts by filling out a survey available on the conference tables.

"I'm absolutely fired up about the journey that lies ahead," Grynol said.

[Keynote speaker Tony Chapman.] Keynote speaker Tony Chapman.

In a presentation titled, "Taking the Air out of Airbnb," keynote speaker Tony Chapman told attendees that hoteliers have two choices in difficult times: to make things happen and thrive or rely on price and struggle to survive.

He talked about five things he would do to create a people experience for guests: making sure your business is more personal; practising authenticity and transparency; providing local knowledge; ensuring consistency in such crucial areas as Wi-Fi; and realizing that it's a small, small world, meaning that hotels should contribute to their local neighbourhoods and charities.

The HAC Hall of Fame awards were presented throughout the day.

The Chelsea Hotel, Toronto, won the Humanitarian Award. For the past 15 years, Chelsea Hotel has raised money in support of their charitable partners: Special Olympics Canada, Habitat for Humanity Toronto, and the SickKids Foundation. The Chelsea Charity Golf Classic has raised over $1 million for the aforementioned charities. Funds raised by this event provided Habitat for Humanity Toronto enough money to build a home for a family each year, making the hotel an Official Home Donor. In 2013, Chelsea Hotel announced a new partnership with SickKids Foundation, in which the hotel committed to a five year fundraising plan with a goal of $500,000 to support AboutKidsHealth. So far, the hotel has raised close to $300,000.

CLIQUE Hotels & Resorts of Calgary and Canmore, Alta., received the Human Resources Award, sponsored by JRoss Hospitality. CLIQUE takes great pride in being one of the best employers to work for because of their solid HR practices and fun work environments. They recognize the importance of a work life balance and thus hire enough staff so their team are able to earn a living while still having time to enjoy their surroundings.

Pine Bungalows, situated in Jasper National Park, celebrated 80 years of operation in 2016, has been owned by the Wasuita family for over 42 years and is recognized as one the park's leaders in environmental stewardship. They are the first member of the Green Tourism Canada to be registered in Alberta – a rigorous and thorough process. Pine Bungalows is proud to have obtained a Gold rating.

The business continues to explore opportunities to trim its ‘waste’ line without reducing guests’ comfort: diverting 50 per cent of its waste from landfill; having installed an ozone Injection system in the laundry department eliminating the use of hot water; not mowing grounds, so there is no machinery, emissions, clippings, or noise; and reusing building products.

Michal Wasuita and his mother, Connie Bjorkquist, have always felt that it is a privilege to live and work in a national park and, therefore, it is important to them to leave as little trace of themselves as possible on the land. As part of this commitment Michal swapped riparian land (riverside) for lesser valued montane forest near the front gate.

In a session provocatively titled, "Fifty Shades of Stay," Jason Dunkel of Environics Analytics and Waseem Shaikh of McCann Canada drilled deeply into the detailed statistics and other information available regarding Canada's many diverse groups. By using data on ethnic diversity including immigration patterns, neighbourhoods, generational differences and 68 precise demographic groups, hotel marketers can precisely target audiences in the right language and using the appropriate tone. By doing that, they can attract and better connect with these groups, ultimately boosting hotel revenue.

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