As Canadians turn the page on the past decade and enter into a new chapter, we’re days away from welcoming the world. It’s hard to believe more than six years have passed since Vancouver/ Whistler garnered the winning bid to host the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games. So much has transpired during that time, and certainly B.C. has worked through a mammoth undertaking to prepare for this major international gathering. New hotels have opened, exciting restaurant concepts have been launched and massive infrastructure improvements have been made to ensure Canada’s beautiful and vibrant West Coast will be perfectly positioned to host an event of this magnitude.
The timing of the Games couldn’t be better. The hospitality industry is still suffering from the effects of a terrible downturn, and it’s time to get back on track. But the question on the minds of many has been, “How will the state of the global economy affect the number of visitors coming to Canada?” Fortunately, it appears the worst is over, though many hoteliers claim that “Olympic aversion” has dampened the run up to the Games. Nevertheless, while it’s hard to predict how many foreign tourists will attend the Olympics, one thing is certain — the Games will succeed in raising the profile of B.C. and Canada for years to come. In Montreal, Expo 67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics showcased the city and the province of Quebec; in Vancouver, Expo 86 achieved a similar result as did the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.
But while the tourism industry has been in a holding pattern for almost 18 months, consumers are carrying a pent up demand for travel. And, as previous recessions have proven, the hospitality industry is usually among the first to rebound. In fact, there’s good news to celebrate in addition to the Olympics. The recent announcement that China has granted Canada Approved Destination Status (ADS) after many long delays is music to the ears of hospitality executives across the country. Additionally, the awarding of the Pan Am Games to Toronto in 2015 means loads of investment, infrastructure improvements and, hopefully, tourists will pour into T.O.
Better days are ahead and the industry is solidly positioned to recover from the tumultuous times of the past two years. In December, RBC stated that the health of the Canadian economy coming out of the recent crisis is tops among the G8 nations. And, according to the HAC, the hotel industry can expect to see growth of 2.5 per cent next year (see story on pg. 28). One can only hope that the momentum continues to build, and that we have learned some valuable lessons along the way, lessons that won’t be forgotten when the good times arrive once more.