Market Insider By Frédéric Tomesco 1102 Views

Montreal hotel association expects 'slow climb back' after border reopens

Montreal hoteliers aren’t jumping for joy just yet over a proposed federal plan to let in U.S. travellers next month.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted on Thursday that the U.S.-Canada land border would reopen to fully vaccinated Americans in mid-August. Vaccinated international tourists might be allowed to fly into Canada in early September, assuming the current progress in vaccination continues, he also told provincial premiers.

The August timeline gives beleaguered hotel operators, who have seen occupancy rates plummet since Canada closed its borders 16 months ago, some much needed clarity. Still, up to two years may be required for the industry to return to pre-pandemic profit levels, according to Eve Paré, head of the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal — and that’s assuming hoteliers can solve an acute worker shortage on short notice.

“It’s going to be a slow climb back,” Paré said Friday in a telephone interview. “The reopening is good news, obviously, but we don’t expect a flood of clients. It’s too late to save the summer, so we’re already focusing on the fall season. September should at least be a good month,” thanks to major tourist draws like the rescheduled Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Francos de Montréal music festival, she said.

Finding staff won’t be easy.

Like all tourism-related businesses, Montreal’s hotels laid off almost all of their employees starting in March 2020. Many staffers have since found employment elsewhere — as evidenced by a recent hotel association survey of members, which found that 35 per of workers have left the industry permanently.