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Canada's hotel industry hammered by COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Hotels across the country are already closing and laying off thousands of workers due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business, according to the industry’s association.

“The hotel industry virtually crashed over the last 10 days. In a period of 48 hours last week, occupancy dropped by 50 per cent across the industry,” says Susie Grynol, CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada.

“Today we’re sitting at under 10 per cent,, which is not enough to sustain business operations, so in the last two days, we’ve seen at least 100 hotel closures.” 

One famous landmark hotel to suspend operations is Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier.

Practically all of the big brand names, including Marriott, Hilton and IHG have closed some Canadian locations as occupancy rates fell hard and fast with the pandemic.  

What a difference a week makes. When concerns about COVID-19 became more elevated, hotel occupancy in Canada quickly fell to about 50 per cent according to STR, a company that analyzes data for the global hospitality sectors. Now, some hotels have only 10 per cent occupancy. (STR)

Some of the hotels hanging on are near airports, says Grynol. “They’re housing distressed passengers who are trying to get home.”

What’s needed to save jobs and businesses 

The Canadian Hotel Association believes the hotel industry needs to be high on the government’s list for financial help.

Laid-off workers will be able to access EI benefits, but there are concerns about how quickly the process will work. Grynol says the industry itself needs fast money with flexible terms if hotels are to survive the crisis.    

“Right now we’re seeing, you know, some of the early liquidity that was announced through BDC, for example, the lines are jammed, and it’s difficult to get through.”

Globally the hotel industry has never faced a picture so grim.  

Canada and the U.S. have agreed to stop all non-essential travel between countries, nearly freezing border crossings.

Several European countries are on total lockdown, as well as residents of several U.S.states including California, Illinois, and New York. Plus, the list of countries imposing travel restrictions around the world keeps growing.   

It all adds up to trouble for tourism and business travel in Canada.

“By the time this is done, if things continue to progress as we suspect they might, we could see somewhere around 250,000 job losses,” says Grynol. 

“And that’s not in two months from now. That’s in a few weeks from now.” 

Behind the big brands: small businesses and workers 

While the hotel business is one of global brands, in this country behind those corporate logos, 87 per cent of the industry is owned by small businesses.    

Among those small businesses are also independent operations like Accent Inns and Hotel Zed of B.C..  

Hotel chain CEO Mandy Farmer, whose company owns Accent Inns in B.C., fears she will have to lay off 70 per cent of her staff. (Submitted)

Covering eight locations in all, the two small chains are owned by the Farmer family and employ 250 people.

CEO Mandy Farmer says bookings began slipping as early as January when COVID-19 emerged in China. In February, things got worse.

“And then, just in the last couple of weeks, we have seen an absolute stop to all business,” says Farmer.  

While they still have some guests, the future’s a bleak picture.  

“When I look forward on the books, when I look to April, May, June, there’s nothing. There’s no business.” 

In the summer, she’s normally at 90 per cent occupancy.   

“So that’s why this is also such a dire situation is because we’ve just come through winter. That’s when we usually use up our cash reserves. And now we’re heading into summer, which is when we plan to make money.” 

Farmer has already started cutting staff, and cut her own salary in half.  Her family partners are taking no payment.  

Farmer fears she’ll have to lay off up to 70 per cent of her employees. 

Amanda Hazen was recently laid off from her reception desk job at the Accent Inn in Victoria. She’s applied for employment insurance and is worried about COVID-19 spreading in Canada. (Submitted by Amanda Hazen)

Amanda Hazen was one of the first to be let go. She’d been working the front desk at the Accent Inn in Victoria for two years. 

She’d already volunteered to go down to part-time hours to help the company. 

Now she’s applying for EI. 

Hazen is fortunate her husband has a stable job. Beyond losing her income, she’s more worried about people she loves getting sick. 

“I don’t know what the world is going to look like tomorrow. It’s scary.” 

This week Naden Abenes was laid off from downtown Vancouver’s Hyatt Regency.

A room attendant, she’d worked in the hotel’s housekeeping department for 12 years. 

She says the almost 650-room hotel is at five per cent occupancy, which means there is only work for three or four cleaners. 

Naden Abenes, bottom left, at a union rally with other Vancouver hotel workers in October, 2019. She was recently laid off from her job with Vancouver’s Hyatt Regency after 12 years with the company. (Submitted by Naden Abenes)

With a normal guest count there could be more than 40 cleaners on the job. 

A volunteer rep with Unite Here Local 40, a hotel workers union, Abenes says older workers who have seniority are afraid for their health if they stay at work. And everyone is worried about how to pay the bills.

“We are depending on the government and our employer to step up to help us,” says Abenes. 

Worldwide damage   

On Friday IHG announced it would reduce costs by $150 million to deal with the crisis, including cutting executive salaries, halting renovations and slashing marketing budgets.      

The company, which owns the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, and Regency brands, operates more than 5,900 hotels worldwide. It expects revenue to drop by 60 per cent in March alone.  

Earlier this week the world’s largest hotel chain, Marriott International, which has 7,300 properties and 1.4 million rooms around the world, predicted it would be temporarily laying off tens of thousands of staff members, from managers to housekeepers. 

Marriott plans to maintain workers’ benefits, but in a candid video posted to Twitter, company CEO Arne Sorenson said business in most markets is down by 75 per cent or more.  

“COVID-19 is having a worse financial impact on our business than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined,” said Sorenson, who appeared upset at the need for layoffs. 

He added the company is cutting all advertising, and that neither he nor Executive Chairman Bill Marriott Jr. will be taking any salary in 2020.  

Numbers are not available for Canada yet, but the American Hotel and Lodging Association says U.S. properties are losing $1.4 billion US a week.  

According to the New York Times, COVID-19 is also taking a big bite out of President Trump’s family businesses.  

Farmer is looking for all levels of government to find a way to keep hotel operators from going under.  

“I would love to see our property tax deferred. That is a huge hit that we pay. Provincially minimum wages start to go up in the summertime. That’s not going to help matters. So I’d love to see a pause on that one as well.” British Columbia is set to raise minimum wage.

Deferred payments on water and utility bills would also help cash flow, says Farmer.   

“What we are doing is we are fighting to keep this company alive, so that we can welcome these temporarily laid off people back.  

“Most importantly, I need the government to look after my team.”

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COVID response offers chance to shift direction of Canadian economy: experts – CTV News

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The end of the COVID-19 pandemic may be a long way off, but analysts are already looking ahead to how Canada could hasten its recovery and position itself for a low-carbon economy.

“The main thing we need to be doing right now is protecting Canadians’ health and well-being,” said Josha MacNab of the Pembina Institute.

“Within that context, we’re starting to turn our minds to what does economic recovery look like.”

Downturns like the one being caused by the global pandemic routinely reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In the past, they’ve always recovered as economies rebuild.

This time, many are asking how the economy can be restored without greenhouse gases tagging along. Open letters on the issue have already been signed by hundreds of thousands of Canadians, from academics to church groups.

Groups such as the World Resources Institute in the United States are calling for clean energy tax credits, programs to increase the energy efficiency of public buildings and a switch from diesel to electric transit buses. It notes similar measures after the 2009 crash saw 900,000 jobs supported.

Pembina has its own list: funding and training for jobs more resilient to market swings, incentives for switching to electricity, support for industries that produce lower-carbon goods.

“We see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a down payment on a resilient economy and a healthier future,” MacNab said.

Once the immediate crisis has passed, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices wants any upcoming stimulus package to focus on making the country more resilient to climate-related shocks such as wildfires or floods.

“These are what we perceived as (remote) risks in the past,” said the group’s economist, Dave Sawyer. “Suddenly, they’re happening all the time.”

The long-term response to COVID-19 could be a chance to do things the Canadian economy will have to do anyway, he said, such as retrain workers from high-carbon industries.

“We know that some industries under this low-carbon future will shed workers,” Sawyer said.

“Where do these workers go? There has been a growing trend to think about transitions for workers.”

Not everyone thinks a post-pandemic green stimulus is appropriate.

“Maybe, to some extent,” said Mark Jaccard, an energy economist at Simon Fraser University.

He suggests the need for relief is going to be so great that governments will at first simply try to restore normalcy.

“Governments are going to pour the money in, short-term, to where workers are already skilled and to regions where they’re already working,” he said. “So it’s going to be in to fossil fuel-endowed areas.”

The real challenge, Jaccard said, will be to not let COVID-19 derail policies already planned or in place.

“It isn’t government spending that will lead to a decarbonized economy. It’s policies.”

Groups such as the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation and the federal Conservatives have already called for the planned increase in the federal carbon tax to be delayed. The increase, to $30 per tonne, has gone ahead.

Still, Keith Stewart of Greenpeace said that once the immediate dangers of the novel coronavirus have passed, the upset it will leave behind is a chance for a reset.

“It’s a shock to the system that makes things that once seemed natural and inevitable seem unnatural and avoidable.”

Stewart said any money that does go to companies must be accompanied by promises of change — much as car manufacturers promised fuel efficiency improvements in accepting their 2009 bailout.

Once initial needs of public health and well-being are funded, government spending should have an eye to the future, said Stewart.

“That investment could entrench existing systems or it could be an investment in the clean-energy economy.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2020.

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Canada’s coronavirus response can shift economy’s direction to low-carbon: experts – Global News

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The end of the COVID-19 pandemic may be a long way off, but analysts are already looking ahead to how Canada could hasten its recovery and position itself for a low-carbon economy.

“The main thing we need to be doing right now is protecting Canadians’ health and well-being,” said Josha MacNab of the Pembina Institute.

“Within that context, we’re starting to turn our minds to what does economic recovery look like.”


READ MORE:
Global stocks drift higher after China’s economy shows signs of rebound

Downturns like the one being caused by the global pandemic routinely reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In the past, they’ve always recovered as economies rebuild.

This time, many are asking how the economy can be restored without greenhouse gases tagging along. Open letters on the issue have already been signed by hundreds of thousands of Canadians, from academics to church groups.

Story continues below advertisement

Groups such as the World Resources Institute in the United States are calling for clean energy tax credits, programs to increase the energy efficiency of public buildings and a switch from diesel to electric transit buses. It notes similar measures after the 2009 crash saw 900,000 jobs supported.

Pembina has its own list: funding and training for jobs more resilient to market swings, incentives for switching to electricity, support for industries that produce lower-carbon goods.






2:20
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Canada working with G20 nations to contain COVID-19


Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Canada working with G20 nations to contain COVID-19

“We see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a down payment on a resilient economy and a healthier future,” MacNab said.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Once the immediate crisis has passed, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices wants any upcoming stimulus package to focus on making the country more resilient to climate-related shocks such as wildfires or floods.

“These are what we perceived as (remote) risks in the past,” said the group’s economist, Dave Sawyer. “Suddenly, they’re happening all the time.”

The long-term response to COVID-19 could be a chance to do things the Canadian economy will have to do anyway, he said, such as retrain workers from high-carbon industries.

“We know that some industries under this low-carbon future will shed workers,” Sawyer said.


READ MORE:
Canada’s carbon tax increasing April 1 despite coronavirus economic crunch

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“Where do these workers go? There has been a growing trend to think about transitions for workers.”

Not everyone thinks a post-pandemic green stimulus is appropriate.

“Maybe, to some extent,” said Mark Jaccard, an energy economist at Simon Fraser University.

He suggests the need for relief is going to be so great that governments will at first simply try to restore normalcy.






2:24
Coronavirus outbreak: Finance Minister says Canada is coordinating with international counterparts to protect the economy


Coronavirus outbreak: Finance Minister says Canada is coordinating with international counterparts to protect the economy

“Governments are going to pour the money in, short-term, to where workers are already skilled and to regions where they’re already working,” he said. “So it’s going to be in to fossil fuel-endowed areas.”

The real challenge, Jaccard said, will be to not let COVID-19 derail policies already planned or in place.

“It isn’t government spending that will lead to a decarbonized economy. It’s policies.”

Groups such as the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation and the federal Conservatives have already called for the planned increase in the federal carbon tax to be delayed. The increase, to $30 per tonne, has gone ahead.


READ MORE:
Farmers frustrated with federal decision to move forward with carbon tax increase amid pandemic

Still, Keith Stewart of Greenpeace said that once the immediate dangers of the novel coronavirus have passed, the upset it will leave behind is a chance for a reset.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s a shock to the system that makes things that once seemed natural and inevitable seem unnatural and avoidable.”

Stewart said any money that does go to companies must be accompanied by promises of change _ much as car manufacturers promised fuel efficiency improvements in accepting their 2009 bailout.

Once initial needs of public health and well-being are funded, government spending should have an eye to the future, said Stewart.

“That investment could entrench existing systems or it could be an investment in the clean-energy economy.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Canada to recruit volunteers, offer jobs to reservists amid COVID-19: Trudeau – Global News

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Canada has put a call out for volunteers to support frontline healthcare workers and is offering full-time jobs to Canadian Forces reservists, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during an update to the country’s coronavirus response on Sunday.

“For those of you with specialized skills looking to help our frontline workers, we do want to hear from you,” said Trudeau, who spoke to reporters from Rideau Cottage where he is self-isolating.

According to the prime minister, Health Canada will be building “an inventory of specialized work volunteers” that provinces and territories can draw on, and that some of the work may include tracking COVID-19 cases and tracing contacts.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus: Canada to receive ‘millions’ of masks from China, Trudeau says

Trudeau also said that reservists in the Canadian Armed Forces would also be offered full-time jobs over the coming months, with the same pay and benefits as regular enlisted members.

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“Bolstering the military’s ranks will help offset some of the economic consequences of COVID-19 and ensure that our communities are well-supported,” Trudeau said.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Volunteer applications will be open until at least April 24, while reservists across the country are going to be contacted directly by the Canadian government.

On Saturday, Trudeau announced “millions” of medical masks would be arriving in Canada from China within 48 hours.

Ottawa is expecting between seven and eight million surgical masks. included in that order are supplies for hard-hit Quebec.

Canada has also leased a warehouse in China to collect and distribute additional supplies “as quickly as possible,” he said.

According to Trudeau, officials are working “day and night” to secure additional, desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers.

And, while Canada continues to source the PPE from international suppliers, Trudeau said the government is also working with domestic manufacturers.






2:17
Trudeau won’t retaliate over Trump’s order to ban N95 mask exports to Canada


Trudeau won’t retaliate over Trump’s order to ban N95 mask exports to Canada

The prime minister’s comments came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump asked Minnesota-based company 3M to stop exporting N95 masks to Canada.

Asked about the move, Trudeau said the dialogue was ongoing with U.S. officials, and that he planned to speak with Trump.

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“We are continuing to engage in constructive discussions with different levels within the administration to highlight that the U.S. will be hurting itself as much as Canada will be hurting if we see an interruption of essential goods and services flow back and forth across the border,” he said. “We continue to demonstrate that this is a good thing for both of our countries and we look to continue to ensure that essential supplies get across the border.”

Trudeau said, though, that Canada was not planning any retaliatory measures against the U.S.


READ MORE:
Canada not looking to retaliate after U.S. restricts coronavirus mask exports: Trudeau

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, by 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, more than 13,800 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Canada.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam said currently Canada’s healthcare system is not overwhelmed by serious cases of COVID-19, but cautioned that the situation could change at any time.

Tam urged Canadians to continue practising physical distancing, and to heed the advice of medical authorities.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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