Live shows, glamping and an ice rink: How Calgary hotels are promoting staycations

It's no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged Calgary's hotel industry while reshaping who it caters to.

Since international travellers is limited, these hotels are attempting to attract locals

Those in Calgary's hotel industry are thinking outside the box to bring guests and revenue in during the pandemic. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

It's no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged Calgary's hotel industry while reshaping who it caters to.

Limited international travel and large conferences are a distant memory. So, in the interim, some hotels are promoting staycations for those living nearby.

For example, at the Delta Hotel in south Calgary, a unique space has allowed the location to host drag shows, comedy acts and even a live circus — all with a safe distance in between.

Christine Dairon, director of sales and marketing at the hotel, says since the hotel's atrium is surrounded by balconies, guests can enjoy the performance.

"Pretty much the sky's the limit. We've done weddings for brides that were pretty upset with the restrictions. So this has allowed us to have families on the balcony," she said.

She said it's just one of many things the hotel is doing to keep people coming in and staff employed.

"We are a locally-owned hotel … so for us, we really see the wellness of people when they come to a show where it's completely safe, and then they experience this private box setting and watch these different events," she said.

The Delta Calgary South Hotel has balconies facing their atrium so guests can enjoy live concerts and plays from a distance. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

According to the Calgary Hotel Association, the occupancy rate in local hotels sat around 14 per cent last month.

"The history for so many hotels, you know, for sales and marketing, was to focus on their loyalty programs, meetings and conventions coming into the city, competing for sports teams coming to the city," said Sol Zia, the executive director of the association.

He said all the creativity being seen was born from necessity. 

"We're in a prolonged staycation regional travel mode," he said.

"And I think it actually changes things forever. So some of the creative tactics addressing the needs of regional travelers, more so than international."

At the Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel, construction has started on an outdoor skating rink for guests to enjoy. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Over at the Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel, a skating rink is being built on the patio. 

"With the restrictions in air travel, we've had to find ways to reinvent ourselves," said Peter Catarino, general manager at the hotel.

"We thought, what's more Canadian than an ice rink?"

He adds that if restrictions continue to ease, the hotel has also a planned a summer concert series.

"We're focusing much more on the leisure," he said.

"We know people want to travel. So we're hoping that through these little bit of initiatives, that we're going to provide confidence."

The Sandman hotels are offering "glamping" suites. The kids get a tent with a starry projector, and the parents get a king-sized bed in a separate room. (Kacey Clark, Adventure Club Photography.)

For those with kiddos, the Sandman hotels are offering something for families in the form of "glamping."

Alisha Reynolds, vice president of the Sandman Hotel Group, said the rooms come with camping chairs, a picnic basket full of camping goodies as well as two tents and a starry night projector for kids to enjoy.

As for the parents, they get a separate room with a king-sized bed.

"Each of the reservations for these camping packages comes with a one-hour private family swim time. We call it the opportunity to 'jump in the lake,' as if you were camping," she said.

"Trying to create something special, memorable and different for families to be able to get out of the house and do something fun together in Calgary."

The packages have been popular, and Reynolds said they have more ideas up their sleeve to make staycations more fun.

"The silver lining to this pandemic has been a surge in creativity and innovation. We're all looking for ways to stay connected with people in safe ways."

With files from Terri Trembath.


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