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Calgary hotels get creative to help guests and themselves survive the holidays

Click to play video 'Calgary hotels look for ways to shine bright this holiday season' Calgary hotels look for ways to shine bright this holiday season
WATCH ABOVE: Calgary hotels are ramping up efforts to make this holiday season, happy for guests -- and themselves -- amid record high vacancy rates. Tomasia DaSilva reports – Dec 24, 2020

The Fairmont Palliser hotel in Calgary has pulled out all the stops in the hopes of making it a festive season for its guests and itself.

The luxury hotel, like so many others in Calgary, has had to adhere to new restrictions introduced by the provincial government on December 8.

“We needed to adapt and pivot a little bit,” the hotel’s director of sales and marketing Lisa Kiehl told Global News.

Calgary hotels ramp up efforts to make the holidays bright for guests. Global News

That adaptation has not only included enhanced safety and cleaning measures, but more diverse experiences for guests as well.

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On the menu this year — special food packages for in-room and in-home service.

“We still like good food and good beverages — right?,” executive chef Eraj Jayawickreme said.

“Everyone is celebrating in a different way this year and we just wanted to give options for anyone that didn’t want to do the cooking.”

Some of those options include takeaway, holiday meals and family-style meal kits for pickup.

“Unfortunately with what’s going on right now, we can’t have everyone in our very large kitchen and dining room,” Jayawickreme added. “But we wanted to be able to do all these things so everyone can still experience what we do and enjoy what we do.”

The hotel has also partnered up with Theatre Calgary and its holiday production A Christmas Carol, offering a special viewing right in guest rooms.

“Families, couples can come together to the hotel and watch the virtual stream of A Christmas Carol through Theatre Calgary,” Kiehl said “Enjoy an experience in the hotel itself and it gets them out of the house.”

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

The Calgary Hotel Association told Global News its members have been working hard to change the experience for guests since the pandemic took a hold of Alberta back in March.

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That includes indoor events as well as outdoor excursions with community partners.

“Because families can be outside some are working on specially curated walking tours of the city,” association executive director Sol Zia said. “While you can’t use the fitness centre and you can’t use the restaurant, it’s a little more special than just sitting in your room and watching television.”

Zia said if guests do choose to stay in, hotels have been working around the clock to keep guests safe — from check-in to check-out.

“The check-in is extremely well managed, there’s plexiglass separating the staff,” he added. “Lobbies, surfaces, everything is being cleaned. Ceilings — things that would normally be a bi-annual cleaning for a hotel — are happening every single day.”

Calgary hotels struggle amid the pandemic. Global Calgary

Still, he said the new restrictions have kept many guests away.

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“All of the hotels in the city have experienced a number of cancellations across the board. Over Christmas and New Year they’re hovering around 90 per cent vacancy.”

Zia said if ever there was a time for Calgarians and everyone to support the industry — that time is now.

“A number of hotels in the ownership groups are getting very close to the edge, so we’re months away,” he said. “All businesses, not just hotels, need support.”

Watch: Live events businesses continue to lose customers and money as COVID-19 rages on

Zia added there are a number of hotels offering deals over the holidays, and people are urged to call around as well as check out local website VisitCalgary.com for an updated list.

Calgary hotels look to warm up the holidays. Global Calgary

Kiehl echoed that, and added while the holidays may look different this year — they can still be merry.

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“Calgary is still very much open for business,” she said. “It might might not be what you experienced in the past, it’s different, but it’s still fun.”

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