Q&A with Anthony Pollard

As he wraps up his 25-year tenure as president of the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC), Anthony Pollard reflects on the evolution of business travel

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the business travel sector?
Technology. Twenty-five years ago, you picked up the phone to call a travel agent. But today, the vast majority of business travellers, including myself, do it online. Also, thanks to technology, everything is so much more transparent now. Give me two minutes and I can tell you the best rates.

What hasn’t changed?
I recently looked up my daytimer for my first day on the job: April 15, 1991. It has yellow Post-its that read: “benefit owner by having them keep long-term employees” and “provide a service to our members.” Working to benefit owners and make them profitable, that hasn’t changed.

What is your members’ approach to attracting the corporate travel market?
Business travel and corporate events are critical to them. It's their bread and butter. We’ve known for years that it’s easier to have a repeat customer than find a new one. Hoteliers are very much aware of that. They want to hold on to existing travellers. That’s why loyalty programs are critical to hotel companies. Of course, they have to have location, but also good quality service and amenities for meetings. And we know complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi and parking are selling features. That doesn’t mean hotels can’t ever charge for those things, but if they’re going to charge, they have to make sure it's the best possible thing going.

What are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of the Green Key Global hotel rating program, which we founded in 1996. It is now the largest hotel environmental rating program in the world and operates in more than 30 countries. It's a bona fide business that funds the government relations work.

What were the greatest challenges during your tenure?
My mandate is government relations and enhancing the profile of the Canadian hotel industry. Two of the biggest issues we have faced are that we couldn’t get people to choose Canada, and when they did, we didn’t have enough people in the hotels to serve them. Now, due to the low Canadian dollar and the government’s increased marketing commitment, visitor numbers are going up. And while the Temporary Foreign Workers Program created a lot of difficulties, the case that was made by HAC, the Tourism Industry of Canada and others persuaded the government to allow more people to come to work in Canada.

What challenges do you see ahead for the hotel industry?
We’re always going to go through change. I know there’s a lot of discussion about the impact of the shared economy. But the concept isn't really new. People have been trying to rent out things forever. Travellers are always going to need a roof over their heads.

What will you miss?
The people. I have been very fortunate. I have made friends around the world. I love to speak to groups. I don’t plan on stopping that, as long as people want me to. But I have made a three-month commitment to my wife that I will not do any work! I won’t miss the worry. I tend to worry a lot. I will be happy to not wake up at night and think Oh, I have to do this or that.

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