The executive director of the Calgary Hotel Association says occupancy rates this Stampede week are only at around 50 per cent.
On a normal Stampede week, hotels would be around 90 per cent full. This year, they’re sitting half occupied. It’s a big increase from 10 per cent in May but nowhere near where rates should be.
“We will be lucky to emerge out of these 10 days with 60 per cent,” said Sol Zia, executive director of the Calgary Hotel Association.
“We are hoping for 60 per cent. We know we’re going in with 50 per cent.
“Hopefully more people come in as they see how safe and how exciting Stampede is.”
The NDP and the Calgary Hotel Association are now asking for an extension of the hotel levy abatement.
Last April, the provincial government told hotel operators they could hold onto the four per cent tourism levy they normally pay. That relief deal ended at the end of June.
“If our hotels can retain and invest the four per cent tourism levy as guest revenues now become meaningful, we can ensure more hotels survive and then we can rehire as many of our lost workforce as possible,” Zia said.
At a news conference Sunday morning, NDP MLA Sarah Hoffman said the next few months are crucial to the success of hotels.
“If adopted, (the levy abatement) would allow Alberta hotels and other accommodation providers to have some time to get their legs back underneath them and will allow them to devote further funding to marketing and promotions as we attempt to draw travellers back.”
The general manager and vice president of the Hotel Arts Group says they’ve hired about one-third of their workforce back from what they had in 2019.
Mark Wilson says most visitors now are coming from Western Canada.
“The province lifting the restrictions on COVID is the big driver right now,” he said.
“The other major driver for Calgary specifically is deciding to have Stampede this year.”
The head of Calgary’s Hotel Association said it’s critical that international travelers are welcomed back to Canada.
Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents no longer need to quarantine for 14 days after arriving but fully vaccinated international tourists are not yet permitted to enter the country.
“We are happy and excited that as a city (that) we might see 50 per cent occupancy during the period of Stampede. That is through Albertans and maybe regional travellers from other provinces who are flocking here for Stampede,” Zia said.
“But of course, without international travel and the border being reopened, 50 per cent is as good as will get.
“Our response is clear: reopening the border, encouraging travel, reopening international travel.”
Premier Jason Kenney said Monday that he understands the hotel industry has been hit hard, which is why the government has given hoteliers “huge support” by letting them keep the tourism levy, increased Tourism Alberta’s budget by $23 million for each of next three years to help hotels, and abated other fees over the last 16 months.
“We think the best thing though is for the feds to open the borders and fill up these hotels. Until that happens, they’re going to be struggling, unfortunately,” Kenney said.
An Alberta government spokesperson says the province is considering extending the tourism levy abatement.
The government estimates the year-long break on the levy saved hotel operators around $33 million.
“Alberta’s government allocated hundreds of millions of dollars in supports to help small businesses get through the pandemic, including billions in deferrals,” said Justin Brattinga, press secretary for Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer.
“In the latest round of the Relaunch Grant, we ensured that all hotels were able to receive an additional $10,000.
“Thanks to our province’s nation-leading vaccination program, the greatest outdoor show on Earth is currently taking place, filling hotel rooms across Calgary.”
“The Alberta government is going to continue to pressure the federal government to lift restrictions on international travellers so that our tourism industry, and the tens of thousands who depend on it, can recover,” Brattinga said.