Waterloo region’s tourism sector is making a post-pandemic rebound but as local travel picks up, tourism officials say there’s a lack of hotel options for visitors.
Data from Statistics Canada shows that hotel occupancy is back on the rise in the region.
The owners of Forest Hill Bed and Breakfast say they are being booked every single week.
“At the end of the week, we have 100 per cent occupancy,” said owners Dave and Eleanora Edwards. “We are a more affordable space than a lot of places, and the fact that we give them breakfast – we give them basically your home away from home, that’s what we want you to do.”
The cost to travel could be related to the lack of local hotel options, according to experts.
“The longer people travel to come to a place, the longer they stay, the more they spend. So, great opportunity for experience and product development which is what we are working on,” said Michelle Saran, CEO of Explore Waterloo Region.
Explore Waterloo Region said while tourism numbers are officially back to pre-pandemic levels, there are fresh concerns over a lack of available space for meetings, conventions and overnight stays.
“We also don’t have a significant amount of convention space beyond Bingeman’s, [so that’s] also a problem,” Saran said.
Explore Waterloo Region’s director of business development said it is a driving factor for those looking to visit the region.
“We would certainly advocate for a larger hotel with conference space attached, that would be ideal. More space means more opportunities for the region,” said Jennifer Eddings.
There are currently 3000 hotel spaces in the region. Only one is ranked as a five star, two are ranked as four stars – while all the rest are three or below stars.
“We certainly could be missing out on a particular market segment – that higher end, market segment. Whether you are looking at that more leisure perspective or from a business events perspective,” Eddings said.
Explore Waterloo Region aims to follow a seven-year plan to engage surrounding communities and drive more tourists to the area.
UPTOWN WATERLOO BIA REACTS
The Uptown Waterloo Bia said it would like to see more event spaces and higher-scale hotel options offered throughout the region, which in turn would benefit many local businesses.
“The tenth largest community in Canada should have more hotels and a conference centre behind it, so I think there are some places for us to grow,” said the BIA’s Board Chair, Melissa Durrell.
GUELPH BUSINESS WEIGHS IN
The owner at Grand River Rafting said their operation has seen a significant increase in numbers so far this season compared to last year.
“Bookings are up by almost 1,000 people,” said the owner in an email. “Concerning overnight accommodations, we host 50,000 people yearly, but only 2 per cent of our clients use tent, trailer or hotel accommodations.”
Grand River Rafting staff said the majority of their clients come from one to two hours away but admitted that part of the allure of rafting there is that you can still be in your own bed at night.