A confluence of large events like concerts returning to the city and staffing shortages is putting pressure on the Edmonton hotel industry.
Country singer Garth Brooks brings his latest tour to the city with shows tonight and Saturday. The Edmonton Pride Festival is also hosting a range of events in the city this weekend.
That is presenting staffing challenges for hotels that see low booking numbers during the week, but experience a surge on the weekends.
“We have to be creative,” Manendra Sharma, general manager of Sandman Signature Edmonton Downtown, said Friday.
“The consistency of business isn’t there and there is a shortage in the workforce, especially in an industry like [hospitality].”
Staff are being trained in multiple roles which allows for them to maintain steady hours, Sharma said, adding that it helps fill different positions during events when occupancy soars.
Dave Kaiser, president of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, said the industry lost staff due to layoffs in the COVID-19 pandemic and many are not returning.
“We scramble to find people to manage it,” Kaiser said.
“We’re still in a place where occupancy and rates together aren’t strong enough.”
Travel Alberta data shows that April was the first time hotel occupancy hit 53 per cent since 2019.
The national average is 63 per cent, about seven per cent below 2019 levels, according to a recent Smith Travel Research report. That report showed the lowest occupancy was reported in Edmonton.
Traci Bednard, chief executive officer of Explore Edmonton, said a lack of international travellers is slowing the recovery.
“They’re the folks that stay the longest and also spend the most most money,” she said.
Explore Edmonton data shows that internet searches for Alberta and specifically Edmonton are up compared to this time last year.
Bednard believes that is a positive sign that visitors are looking to return.
“In some ways this is our chance to really get out and experience and enjoy Edmonton … we have more festivals than we do weekends.”