Tourism London campaign looks to lure locals to city’s struggling hotels

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Tourism London is looking closer to home as part of a new campaign announced this week aimed at helping the struggling local hospitality and tourism industry, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, through the fall.

As part of the Stay a Little Longer campaign, the agency is hoping to lure local residents into a staycation of sorts at a hotel in the city with a special two-nights-for-the-price-of-one promotion.

Those who book a stay for two consecutive nights at a participating hotel will be given a promotional code that can be used to comp the cost of the second night. Tourism London says it will pay the hotel the full equivalent amount.

The promotion, underway now, will run until New Year’s Eve, and is valid for hotel stays until the end of January.

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“We had some recovery funds that we received through FedDev and we put together this campaign. We reached out to all of our hotel partners, asked who would want to be a part of it, and we had 18 partners sign on board,” said Natalie Wakabayashi, director of culture and entertainment tourism at Tourism London.

Whether it’s in your own town or you’re visiting from another area (and) coming to London, you get a little bit of a discount, that hopefully then you spend in other ways while you’re here.”

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The campaign comes as local hotels have reported a steep drop in check-ins as a result of pandemic restrictions and fears, which has forced the cancellation, postponement or virtualization of concerts, conferences, festivals, sporting events, tournaments and more — all things that would normally bring people into the city and into its hotels.

“Right now for October, we’re averaging around 44 rooms a night… We’re hoping the tourism on program can help spike these numbers a bit,” said Dave Bartlam, director of sales and marketing at the 220-room Delta London Armouries in the city’s downtown.

“We’re not expecting to sell out, but we’re hoping that we can see some more people in the hotels here in London.”

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It’s a trend seen throughout Canada’s hospitality and tourism sector, which has been decimated by the pandemic.

Statistics Canada reported last month that tourism spending in Canada fell by a record 66.3 per cent in the second quarter of the year, more than four times the previous record drop of 14.3 per cent seen in the first quarter. Focusing on accommodation alone, spending fell by 65.4 per cent.

Meantime, the number of people employed in Ontario’s tourism sector fell from just under 765,000 people in January to 442,000 in April, according to Tourism HR Canada, a tourism industry group. As of September, the number was just over 645,000.

Nationally, it says 881,700 tourism jobs were lost in March and April, of which about 567,400 had been gained back as of September.

Travel restrictions and decreased demand have also wreaked havoc on the airline industry, which has seen more than 30,000 employees laid off or furloughed at Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd.

Passenger numbers in Canada were down 86.8 per cent in August compared to the same time in 2019, however passenger numbers saw a 29.1 per cent increase compared to July, due largely to domestic travel.

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It remains to be seen how the tourism industry will fare through the winter months, but Tourism London says it’s hoping the initiative will help things a bit locally.

The agency says the city has received the “Safe Travel Stamp” as part of the World Travel and Tourism Council, meaning businesses are keeping up with strict safety protocols.

“Our hotel partners have done such a tremendous job to stay ahead and be on par with all of the COVID safety protocols, and we’re so proud of all of the lengths and measures that they’ve gone to,” Wakabayashi said.

“We’re so excited that our hotel partners are leading the way in that, and we’re happy to promote them and encourage individuals to stay a little longer.”

More information on the initiative can be found here.