As business launches go, this one was softer than a comfy pillow in a hotel guest room.
The Hyatt Place Ottawa West officially opened its doors to customers on Thursday – a debut that happened without any of the fanfare and fancy ribbon-cuttings that typically mark such occasions.
With the province still under a stay-at-home order that likely won’t be lifted for weeks yet, manager Alison Hunter says she’s holding off on throwing a grand opening party at the new 140-room property on Moodie Drive in Bells Corners.
Hammered by the pandemic, the hotel industry is going through one of its toughest periods ever right now. But Hunter said the new Hyatt’s management team decided to take the plunge and start welcoming customers after delaying the opening several times.
“We’re hopeful that once the restrictions start to lift … then we can say, ‘OK, get in your cars (and) come see us,’” Hunter told OBJ, adding the hotel expects to serve mainly guests who must travel for essential reasons for at least the next few weeks.
Owned by a local group that includes Colonnade Development president Cal Kirkpatrick, the new Hyatt is hoping its location near the new Department of National Defence headquarters and the Kanata North tech park will attract a steady stream of business travellers once the economy is back at full throttle.
Industry hit hard
But exactly when that will happen remains a big question mark.
The hospitality industry has been decimated by the pandemic as business and tourism travel has virtually ground to a halt.
Several Ottawa hotels have closed or been sold and converted to residential buildings since the COVID-19 crisis began, while many others have remained shuttered throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, occupancy rates at the properties that have decided to open have hovered in the low double digits.
Hunter, however, is undaunted.
“We’re hopeful with vaccination numbers going up, cases going down and things coming back that the pent-up demand that the travel industry has is going to (lead to) some strong leisure numbers this summer,” she said.
The 12-year veteran of the hospitality industry said she thinks the new Hyatt might have an advantage over its downtown counterparts that cater more to meeting and convention traffic.
“I do think that smaller, suburban hotels will be able to recover a little bit more quickly because they’re not relying on those 1,000, 2,000, 3,000-delegrate conventions or 200-room-night blocks,” said Hunter, who previously served as director of sales and marketing at the Hilton Garden Inn Ottawa Airport.
“But I do still think it’s going to be slow and steady. We may have peaks and valleys. I do think that we’re still in for some bumps in the road, but we have to be optimistic because of all the good things that are happening in our recovery now. It’s going to come back.”