Vancouver explores new forms of hospitality and housing tenure as hotel rooms disappear

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      Vancouver’s housing crisis has deeply affected the city’s hotel industry as more hotels are closing and/or converting into expensive residential condos.

      Now the City of Vancouver is exploring new ways of accommodating the city’s booming tourism industry.

      A motion approved by Vancouver city council on Tuesday (June 25) has directed city staff to study new forms of hospitality and housing tenure and provide recommendations to the council.

      Green councillor Pete Fry, who spearheaded the motion, said that “there is a need for modest-priced hotel accommodation.”

      “Looking into all of our hotel listings, only 30 percent of our proper hotels are actually unionized. We've got to have mid-range accommodation options,” Fry said at the meeting. “It is a very complicated concept to wrap our brains around.”

      Green councillor Pete Fry sees a need for more affordable hotel rooms for tourists visiting Vancouver.

      Another Vancouver city councillor, Sarah Kirby-Yung of the NPA, considers the declining number of hotel rooms in the city a threat to the thriving tourism industry that brings billions of dollars in revenue to the region.

      Kirby-Yung, who had a career in tourism and the hospitality industry in the past, is worried that “if we don't do something and we keep doing what we are already doing, then we are going to exacerbate the crisis.”

      “Our supply for hotel rooms has been diminishing for the last 15 years, and I don't think that we can take that for granted,” Kirby-Yung warned. “If we continue doing what we are doing now, whether it is for purposeful rental, we will end up in a very challenging situation, economically.”

      Tourism Vancouver

      According to a report released by the City of Vancouver’s planning staff last year, the city has lost 1,105 hotel rooms over the past decade.

      The report added that “a further 1,674 hotel rooms are at risk of being lost in the short and medium term for redevelopment purposes, primarily residential.”

      Vancouver lost 626 hotel rooms after the closure of the Empire Landmark and Coast Plaza Stanley Park hotels. Another 372 rooms will disappear when the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver closes early next year.

      “When you look at the price in the housing stock in Vancouver, it has been the same with hotel rooms,” Kirby-Yung said. “The demand for full-service hotels is changing significantly. I can speak with authority. I have worked in this industry; I know this Industry. And people are looking for different types of accommodations that are more affordable or with [space for] families.”

      NPA councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung, a former hospitality industry executive, worries about the economic impact of the loss of hotel rooms in downtown Vancouver.

      Data from Tourism Vancouver shows that this industry contributes $4.8 billion to the Metro Vancouver economy annually and supports over 70,000 full-time jobs.

      The organization reported that in 2017, more than 10.3 million people visited Vancouver—the highest overnight visitation in the city’s history.

      There are more than 23,000 hotel rooms in Metro Vancouver, with nearly 12,000 in the downtown core.

      According to Tourism Vancouver, the city needs up to another 4,000 hotel rooms to accommodate overnight visitors. It warns that the hotel room shortage could risk $2 billion in visitor spending over 12 years for Metro Vancouver.