With borders closed and travel restricted, hotels are having to get creative to drum up business as COVID-19 continues to take its toll on the hospitality industry.

Hotel Arts, one of Calgary’s premiere hotels, has been hit hard by the pandemic, losing almost all of their midweek business. 

“We used to be a hotel that would sell out midweek all the time because of the strength of our corporate travel market, and also our group business, and the tour and travel stuff, but each of those three segments is gone, so it’s the leisure market now and most people aren’t travelling on the weekdays,” says Fraser Abbott, director of business development at Hotel Arts Group. 

The hotel has managed to remain busy on weekends though, with a mix of locals looking for something to do and regional travellers coming to the city to visit family and friends. 

One of their biggest draws for locals is their staycation promotion, which includes a daily breakfast credit of $60, complimentary self-parking, late check-out of 2 p.m. and complimentary evening turn down.

“As a hotel group, we’re trying to showcase that our property is safe. That people can have the confidence that they will have a safe and enjoyable experience to rest their head overnight, to dine in our restaurants, to experience our poolside patio,” says Abbott. 

Meanwhile, Ramada Plaza Calgary Downtown has taken a musical approach by hosting concerts on their pool deck, with the hotel room patios being the viewpoint for guests. 

“I joke about how, you know, I’m never going to want to go to a concert again without my own personal bathroom.”

– Marnie Crowe

“This isn’t a guy with a guitar and a microphone. This is a production. This is a concert. This is a concert with lights, and with sound and with stage. There is a lot that has gone into this and Hotels Live has done an amazing job with the production side of things,” says Marnie Crowe, director of sales and revenue at Ramada Plaza Calgary Downtown. 

Working with Hotels Live, the hotel has hosted two concerts already, with a third coming on July 18, featuring a Pink Floyd tribute band, and the Diesel Bird Hotel Music Festival on August 7. The festival will include acts like Clayton Bellamy of The Road Hammers, Shawn Austin, Jojo Mason and will be hosted by country musician and organizer Dan Davidson. 

Crowe considers the concerts a success. 

“I had no idea what to expect with regards to acoustics or anything like that, and I was absolutely blown away by the quality of just the sound,” she says.

“The day after each of the shows we’ve seen tremendous uptick, as people learn more about it and as the concert goers themselves, they come, they have a great time and they end up booking for the next concert after they’ve been here once.”

 Crowe believes that they’re really onto something with these shows, even post-COVID. 

“I joke about how, you know, I’m never going to want to go to a concert again without my own personal bathroom. I just think this is super cool, to be able to not have to stand in line for the bathroom, to be able to get room service and to have dinner and drinks delivered right to your door. It’s essentially front-row balcony seating.”

For folks who don’t necessarily want to pay for a hotel room but do want to enjoy something outside of their regular daily routine, the poolside patio at Hotel Arts is also back open to non-hotel guests with dining beginning at 11 a.m. Those visiting without a hotel room will have an additional $20 pool usage fee with a two-hour limit. Space is limited with only 58 seats poolside, with social distancing measures in place. There is also a limit of 20 people in the pool at a time. 

“It’s a great spot to hang out. You don’t have to go to Vegas or Palm Springs, you can hang out here,” says Abbot.

Hotel Arts has numerous health safety protocols in place, including having hand sanitizer available in various locations throughout their properties. Photo courtesy of Hotel Arts Group.

In order to gain access to the pool, guests will first need to fill out a COVID declaration form, as do people checking in for their stay at the hotel. Other health safety measures that are in place include maximum group sizes of six people per table at the poolside patio and restaurants, window and floor decals promoting social distancing, hand sanitizer all over the properties and signs in the Hotel Arts bathroom encouraging guests to sing Staying Alive while washing their hands. 

“If you look at the verse and the chorus, it’s about 20 to 30 seconds so as people are washing their hands in our washroom, we encourage them to do Staying Alive,” says Abbott. 

Similar to Hotel Arts, Ramada Plaza has also implemented their fair share of health safety protocols in light of the pandemic. They’ve implemented strict staggered check-in times for the concerts to ensure guests from only one room will be in the elevator at a given time, increased cleaning and sanitation of high touch spots, lots of hand sanitizer and leaving rooms empty for 24 hours after guests check-out. 

“The community needs this and we’re the building that can provide it right now,” says Crowe.