The changing face of tourism in Canada
When you ask people from around the world where they would like to visit if they came to Canada, Lake Louise is certainly at the top of the list. As part of our Hotel Guide, Foodbuy wanted to get the pulse on what’s happening with tourism post-pandemic. We spoke with Joseph Dolby, Executive Chef at Atlific Hotels, Lake Louise, a key player in one of Canada’s top tourism destinations.
Dolby says he sees a positive forecast for 2023 as business is bouncing back. “We found that more Canadians are traveling within Canada, and we are seeing solid growth. The ski hill had one of their best years ever here in 2022 and they are on track for the same this year.
“While a lot of the tourism has returned to Lake Louise, we have noticed a decline in the Asian market over the past three years. This is a big segment of our business. This demographic has been known to visit during the off peak season as well. In 2019, we hosted approximately 10,000 lunch tours and in 2022 we only hosted around 100. That’s a big gap to fill.”
When we asked Dolby about the key changes he is seeing post-pandemic, he pointed to two areas. The first is the changing face of the customer and the second was the rapid growth of the takeout business.
“We have noticed a different ethnic makeup in our restaurants over the past months welcoming more travelers from India and the Philippines. So, we have adjusted our menus to cater to more vegan and vegetarian preferences and have added Indian cuisine to our menu.
“As well, we never used to offer takeout. It represented approximately 10% of our sales. Today, I it is around 25%. It’s another source of revenue on its own now.” Dolby looked to Foodbuy to support his shifting business needs.
“We needed eco-friendly takeout containers fast. Especially because of the environmentally sensitive area we operate in here in the Bow Valley. In addition to the single use plastic ban in Alberta, we needed to change quickly. We moved to using cornstarch cutlery and biodegradable takeout containers. There is no plastic or Styrofoam anywhere in the hotel.
“The takeout business has grown so fast that we are tracking it daily. Our paper products have doubled in our budget.” Dolby is looking at all alternatives to help drive efficiencies and cut down on labour costs. “The guests were coming, but we had to close some of our outlets at times and reduce hours because we didn’t have the staffing. We had to adjust on the fly every day. We lost hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result. The guests don’t care, they just want to eat. It is certainly a challenge for us and the whole sector.”
Dolby said, because of the staffing issue, the operation is looking at all options to drive efficiencies. They are looking to reduce the number of menu items, and he is looking to Foodbuy for products that require less prep time and more ‘ready to go’ products. He has even made the move to buy a high-tech pizza oven that will cook a pizza in 60 seconds.
“Basically, if you don’t have the time or the staff to peel potatoes, we’re simply going to buy peeled potatoes.” Dolby has his fingers crossed that he and the industry can attract more staffing support through the government.
“We overpay here, provide subsidized housing arrangements, and buy ski passes for the year, but it’s still
tough. If I did not have four temporary foreign workers through the government program, I would be in a world of hurt.”
If the Asian market comes back quicker than anticipated, combined with the current domestic tourism boom, there will be a lot of pressure on tourism operators to find new ways to meet the demands.
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