COVID-19: Check-in on Calgary hotel industry reveals historically low occupancy levels

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WATCH ABOVE: The last of Calgary’s big hotels has reopened as the hospitality industry struggles to bring guests in. Tomasia DaSilva explains why occupancy is so low in Calgary.

Once a booming sector in a booming economy, Calgary’s hotel industry continues to struggle amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Calgary Hotel Association (CHA) told Global News hotel occupancy rates are currently at historic lows.

“Average occupancy in the city is sitting at 25 per cent right now,” CHA executive director Sol Zia said.

The CHA said downtown Calgary is taking the brunt of the vacancies as conventions, trade shows and business travellers stay away.

“There’s no corporate travel that we can see,” Zia added. “Most corporate travel agreements are not allowing corporate travel until next year.”

Zia said it’s a double-whammy because Calgary — and the core — was already dealing with the ongoing economic downturn before this.

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Read more: Alberta hotels facing ‘sad reality’ of permanent closure because of COVID-19 pandemic

Hotels reopening

The historic and iconic Fairmont Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary just reopened Aug. 13 after being closed since March.

The luxury hotel’s general manager said being shut down was challenging.

“Coming to the hotel when it’s buzzing, there’s a lot of energy — totally that energy is gone,” Sunny Joseph said.

“The lights are off [and] the furniture is covered with cloths, so it is quite depressing.”

Joseph was eager to open up again, even though the reopening is happening slowly in terms of the facility and the guests.

On the first day back, approximately 25 rooms were reserved.

Calgary hotels are now open for business
Calgary hotels are now open for business. Global Calgary

Palliser officials told Global News the core services at the hotel will remain the same, but they have implemented a number of pandemic protocols since reopening.

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“We will have that initial screening process going on,” Joseph said. “The rooms, especially the high-touch areas in the room, will be frequently cleaned.”

Joseph said certain amenities will also stay closed and others, like the pool, will have restricted and timed access. When it comes to masks, face coverings are required by all guests and staff at any time in a public area “so that our exposure to the virus is as minimal as possible,” Joseph said.

“Our goal is to have no exposure at all,” he added.

New screening procedures at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel
New screening procedures at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel. Global Calgary

Read more: Coronavirus means some Alberta hotels close; changes for those still open

What’s ahead

The CHA said most Calgary hotels are now open, with the Palliser being one of the last holdouts.

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Zia said while hotels are at historic lows when it comes to occupancy, August was better than anyone expected thanks to increased travel from people in the province and the country.

However, he doesn’t expect the numbers will rise much this year.

“We don’t expect occupancy to rise above 30 per cent until the end of the year,” Zia said. “So we are looking at full impact 2020.”