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As Canadians emerge from their homes this summer after the long COVID winter, they are looking for entertainment – any entertainment. They want to sleep in a bed that isn’t theirs, in a room they didn’t clean. They want to eat a meal they didn’t cook at a table they didn’t set.

And the hospitality industry stands to benefit greatly from all this pent-up energy. It doesn’t mean a complete rebound or a near-normal situation. But the industry is bouncing back to a state that is vastly improved from last year.

With coronavirus restrictions still in effect until mid-June, the Canadian hospitality industry hasn’t really started on its path to recovery. In May, hotel occupancy hit 28.1%, significantly better than 2020 levels, but well below the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

Market predictions suggest the industry won’t bounce back this year, as travel restrictions keep Canadians at home. The best estimates indicate that Canadian hotel occupancy will increase to roughly 38% this summer. And although Restaurants Canada predicts an upward trend as well, the expect business to remain 20% below pre-pandemic levels.

On the other side of the border, where the recovery is further along, signs are more hopeful. In May, U.S. hotels hit average daily occupancy rates of 59.3%, their highest since before the pandemic. And U.S. restaurant sales were only slightly below pre-pandemic levels.

Managing the hard insurance market

Despite the upward trend, securing appropriate insurance has been a major roadblock for many hospitality businesses across North America. The insurance market is the hardest it’s been in decades, decreasing insurance availability and increasing costs significantly.

While some insurance carriers are simply exiting the market, others are substantially hiking premiums or specifying additional exclusions, including COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. Umbrella (excess liability) coverage is difficult to find. And broker strategies like layering (covering exposures in multiple layers among multiple insurers) are more challenging to create.

On the property side, rates have been a continuing issue – especially with increasing larger claims for natural disaster damages – but they were also aggravated by COVID-19-driven business interruption exposures. Executive liability exposures created by the pandemic are driving directors & officers and errors & omissions coverage up by 50%, too. And cyber insurance is also under pressure, as the growth of technology solutions related to the hospitality industry has led to an increase in cybercrimes, along with premium increases of up to 50%.

The key to the challenge is to work with a broker or risk consultant, an expert on the changes impacting the industry and the logical choice to guide hospitality businesses forward. These professionals are also well positioned to help owners and operators present their cases on successful risk management to underwriters.

Making investments in the future

Although tourism is still slow this summer in Canada, there is a huge pent-up demand for travel and dining across North America. Families are desperate to leave home and see something new. Young adults and Boomers are looking for face-to-face interactions. And business people are looking toward in person meetings and conferences – one of the lodging industry’s profit centres – which may not happen until 2025.

The good news is, many owners and operators took advantage of the pandemic shutdown to make investments in technology and personalized service features, which should position them well during the return to normal. Customer expectations regarding “touchless transactions” and “smart” technology are growing. The “smart” global hospitality market is expected to more than double to $12.727 billion by 2025.

The success of the post-pandemic future is riding on a host of new and added capabilities in terms of guest and staff safety and safety compliance. Even more than the obvious booking and check-in platforms, integrated platforms can track where and when guests use spaces and when they’ve been sanitized, as well as communicate with guests when rooms are ready. Behind-the-scenes operations are facilitated, too, like coordinating with housekeeping and other departments.

Since the guest experience is a driver of success, much of the investment is customer facing now. It’s also driving personalization, another trend that relies on digital solutions. In fact, the top two technology priorities by hospitality organizations are digital analytics (to gain better insights) and the front-end customer experience.

Personalizing the guest experience is easy with analytics data leading the way, especially when that data is informed through persona development. Personas provide a deep dive into customer segments so operators can align services and experiences to those preferences. Given the vast amount of data at a hotel’s disposal, this can be an ambitious undertaking. 

The value of personalization, however, is clear through the return on investment. For example, consider business reviews. One study showed that every one-star increase will boost a hotel’s revenues by 5% to 9%.

Another survey found 82% of respondents will pay a premium for a 4-star rated lodging.

The Canadian hospitality industry has a long road ahead of it, especially with the border with the U.S. still closed. But it’s in a much stronger position than it was this time last year, or even a few months ago. Resilient hotels and restaurants will be able to manage the risks and still come out ahead.

 
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Vancouver, BC — Over 1000 hospitality workers in hotels, motels, pubs, and liquor stores across 14 communities in BC overwhelmingly voted by 80% to ratify a new four-year agreement with Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR). This contract includes an extension of recall rights for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic — through to July 1, 2023 or when the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the pandemic is over. After an 18-month effort, BC’s hospitality workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, have achieved a new standard securing the right of workers to return to their jobs as business recovers.

Workers fought to push back against an industry attack to replace their good living wage jobs with those at minimum wage and eliminate union health and pension benefits. HIR employers finally agreed to extend recall rights for all properties. Local 40 members only agreed to settle if their pension, health care, severance pay, and workload were protected. As well as winning unlimited recall rights to cover future crises such as pandemics and natural disasters, they won longer recall protection for regular seasonal layoffs, increasing from 6 months to 12. 

Workers at several HIR properties, such as Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Holiday Inn Vancouver, organized and participated in rallies earlier this year to protest the industry’s attempt to impose deep concessions which would have rolled back years of hard-won gains. UNITE HERE Local 40 called on HIR to find a path forward to address the impact of the pandemic on hospitality workers and their employers. HIR issued a lockout notice in mid-April, which would have disproportionately impacted women and racialized workers.

Jan Budd, a kitchen helper for 30 years at Holiday Inn & Suites Vancouver Downtown, said: “It feels incredible to have been part of this huge victory, after so many months of fighting against the industry. I can breathe a sigh of relief now knowing that I won’t have to start all over again at minimum wage. HIR finally respected our years of service, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back at work again as business eventually recovers.”

Fe Taala Casas, a room attendant for 26 years at Inn at the Quay in New Westminster, said: “I’m over the moon. We fought very hard since the pandemic started to make sure all of us would have jobs to go back to once Covid is over, and in the end, we won just that. I’m very proud that we were able to make sure recall rights would be extended, and that we protected our pension and health care. This victory sends a strong signal that other hospitality employers should be making sure no one loses their job because of this pandemic.”

The new contract covers hospitality workers in Vancouver, Victoria, Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Abbotsford, Harrison Hot Springs, Kamloops, Castlegar, Port Alberni, Mackenzie, Prince Rupert, and Fort St. John.

While HIR has extended recall rights, some BC hotels such as the Pacific Gateway, Hilton Metrotown, and Coast Bastion still refuse to commit to returning workers back to their jobs. The union launched the Unequal Women campaign in March to call attention to hotels that refuse to guarantee workers — many of them women and immigrants — the right to return to their jobs as the industry recovers.

 
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The Western Canadian Lodging Conference will be held November 22nd & 23rd at the Hyatt Regency in Calgary.  Mark your calendars for this LIVE event!  We will also provide a Live Streaming option for all sessions.  

Stay tuned for more information regarding registration, speakers & panelists.

 
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Fobi AI Inc. (FOBI:TSXV) (FOBIF:OTCQB) (the "Company" or "Fobi"), a global leader in providing real-time data analytics through artificial intelligence to drive customer activation and engagement is pleased to announce the release of its new Digital Proof of Vaccination service CheckVax™, to help venues and businesses comply and immediately participate in government vaccine mandates. CheckVax™ seamlessly integrates into Fobi’s existing Venue Management and Wallet pass technology in order to improve the speed and ease of vaccine verification at venues, events, schools, movie theaters, hotels, gyms and other mass gathering sites at a high risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Tamer Shafik, Fobi CTO stated, “This is an exciting product launch for Fobi as it incorporates our existing world leading Wallet pass technology and venue management platform to immediately solve a major problem faced by millions of businesses left scrambling to comply with government vaccination mandates. Quite simply, we believe we have architected and delivered the fastest and easiest to use proof of vaccine solution in the market today.”

CHECKVAX™ WORKS AS A STAND ALONE SOLUTION OR PLUGS SEAMLESSLY INTO ANY CURRENT OR EXISTING GOVERNMENT VACCINATION VERIFICATION PROGRAM

Fobi’s CheckVax™ digital proof of vaccination service can act as a stand-alone service that can be implemented by venues or organizations worldwide into existing platforms, as well as bolt onto any other digital proof of vaccination verification program. CheckVax™ can support any government or corporate digital vaccination verification service in the world.

Fobi CEO Rob Anson stated, Our latest product offering drives up the value of Fobi immensely for operators facing continuously evolving public health orders while their guests try to prove their vaccinations. We are excited to be able to support existing businesses with our app-less, digital vaccine solution. CheckVax’s digital activation couples safe vaccine verification with customer engagement, commerce, and sponsorships to give businesses a powerful, end-to-end product. As always, Fobi is ahead of the curve in anticipating the market needs and we’ve shown it again by getting CheckVax™ into the market at the right time.”

Fobi has already successfully registered and trademarked CheckVax™.

CHECKVAX™ TO SUPPORT GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE SECTOR

With vaccine mandates rapidly being rolled out by governments, small businesses and major corporations around the world, Fobi’s CheckVax™ launch is well-positioned as the need for digital and contactless proof of vaccination becomes a critical component of hosting, launching or participating in a wide range of activities and events determined to be at a high risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

On the government side, countries such as Denmark, Greece, France, Italy, some Canadian provinces and the U.S. cities of New Orleans, New York and San Francisco are among the places that have vaccination requirements to get into places like indoor restaurants or theaters.

On the business side, even without government mandates, more businesses in countries where vaccines are readily available are starting to ask for proof of vaccination. For example, Disney Cruise Line has joined Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian in planning to require COVID vaccines for passengers 12 and older.

*Source AP Story

NEW SERVICE DRAWS ON FOBI’S EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE AND PROVEN SUCCESS AS A LEADER IN VENUE MANAGEMENT

Drawing on Fobi’s extensive experience in Venue Management and Venue Tracing at NCAA Bubble Events through the first waves of Covid, this new packaged system is a sophisticated, end-to-end mobile-first and contactless solution that digitizes and automates the entire Proof of Vaccination and check-in process. The CheckVax™ user journey is incredibly simple and easy:

1. Register: Users register in our Portal to enter basic information such as their ID, and other information.

2. Verify: Once users submit their information, their credentials are verified by Fobi.

3. Download: Upon approval, users are sent a link to download their CheckVax™ Wallet pass onto their smartphones.

4. Validate: Vaccine passes can be validated and checked at a venue or location using Fobi’s Smart Tap NFC device, Fobi’s Smart Scan Pass Validation App.

BENEFITS OF FOBI’S CHECKVAX™ SOLUTION - SPEED AND EASE OF USE

CheckVax™ can speed up queues with instant access to digital vaccine passes. By moving vaccine records to Wallet passes, Fobi enables businesses and venues to shorten lines with customers and fans proving their vaccination status before even arriving at their entry point to exponentially speed up queue times. CheckVax™ geofenced passes pull the vaccination pass right to the front of iPhone lock screens, so they're always ready to check-in.

 
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Canada’s hotel industry reported its highest monthly performance levels since the pandemic began, according to STR‘s July 2021 data.
Even with improvement from previous months, the country’s performance levels remained well below pre-pandemic comparisons from July 2019:

  • Occupancy: 54.5% (-27.6%)
  • Average daily rate (ADR): CAD151.31 (-18.2%)
  • Revenue per available room (RevPAR): CAD82.53 (-40.7%)

The occupancy and RevPAR levels were the highest in Canada since February 2020, while the ADR level was the country’s highest since December 2019. 

“Hotels in Canada saw a resurgence in demand in July, with key metrics reaching the strongest levels since the pandemic hit,” said Laura Baxter, CoStar Group’s director of hospitality analytics for Canada. CoStar Group is the parent company of STR. 

“ADR was the standout metric, as it inched closer to 2019 levels and hoteliers reaped the rewards of high-paying transient leisure guests. Rate at hotels in small towns exceeded 2019 levels by 1%, which was the first indicator to reach pre-pandemic levels. Rates in resort locations also showed strong growth, reaching $251, up from $182 in June.

“August is typically the strongest month for Canada’s hotel industry, and this year will be no exception with month-to-date metrics already showing an improvement on July levels. Occupancy during the first two weeks was up 10 points to 64%. That occupancy figure includes international demand now that fully vaccinated Americans can cross the land border and inbound international air passengers have less restrictions upon arrival.

Among the provinces and territories, Prince Edward Island recorded the lowest July occupancy level (47.3%), which was 43.8% below the pre-pandemic comparable. 

Among the major markets, Montreal saw the lowest occupancy (42.0%), which was a 47.5% decline from 2019. 

The highest occupancy among provinces was reported in British Columbia (67.2%), down 18.8% against 2019. At the market level, the highest occupancy was reported in Vancouver (59.2%), which decreased 33.1% from 2019.

“STR’s updated forecast for the country shows RevPAR at $54 for 2021, a more positive outlook for the year due to less travel restrictions underpinned by a strong economy,” Baxter said. “In line with seasonal trends, Q4 is expected to generate softer results than Q3, as hoteliers typically rely on business demand during the fall months. Based on the spike in COVID-19 cases, the expected pent-up corporate demand from the American and domestic source markets may be more muted than originally anticipated.”

 

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