The travel and hospitality industry will take years to return to full capacity once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. While 2020 was shaping up to be a record year for the Quebec hotel industry, the sector is already mourning 2021.
So much so that Quebec hoteliers are predicting a return to normal occupancy rates in just four years, or in 2025.
"The time to rebuild the confidence of event organizers - I'm thinking of conventions, among others - before travelers' confidence returns. It will take a few years before we return to levels similar to what we had before the pandemic," says Ève Paré, president of the Greater Montreal Hotel Association.
At the Sheraton Centre, the second largest hotel in Montreal, barely 30 of the 825 rooms are occupied.
"We are talking about an occupancy rate of 4, 5, 6, 7% since the beginning of the year. What's important is to preserve our workforce," says Bertil Fabre, general manager of this downtown hotel, who says many employees have found new jobs.
For the organizations that receive foreign tourists in Quebec and Canada, times are hard. They hope that the reopening of the borders will bring back the clientele by the end of the year. But these are wishes rather than certainties.
"We're really at the mercy of border openings. That's really what's going to determine whether there's going to be a clientele that's going to come later this summer, maybe early fall, from a U.S. perspective. Even from an international point of view, in terms of France and all that, we feel that there is still interest in coming back here in 2021," said Laurent Plourde, president of the Association of Incoming and Outgoing Travel Agencies.
Montreal hoteliers are counting heavily on local and Canadian tourism. And they hope that Quebecers will make a detour to the metropolis to rediscover it and boost the Quebec hotel industry numbers.