Nyle Kelly, general manager of Kanata’s Brookstreet Hotel, says the property’s banquet halls and ballrooms have been buzzing with activity as holiday party season ramps up.
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While a recent survey of Canadian shoppers is predicting a blue Christmas for retailers this season, Nyle Kelly’s outlook is decidedly more upbeat. The general manager of Kanata’s Brookstreet Hotel says the property’s banquet halls and ballrooms have been buzzing with activity as holiday party season ramps up. Last Saturday night, two of the hotel’s biggest rooms were packed to capacity as more than 800 people attended gatherings at the Brookstreet and another 100-plus partiers occupied its sister property, the Marshes Golf Club next door. Kelly says he expects those spaces to get even busier as the countdown to Christmas begins and companies that had put holiday celebrations on ice during the pandemic return to pre-COVID-style revelry. “Christmas parties, they’re all back,” he told OBJ on Monday. “And I would tell you (employers) are more eager to do something to reward their staff and teams based on the fact that they haven’t been able to do it for the past few years. I think there’s a huge demand for people to just get out and have a little fun.” The wave of bookings at the Brookstreet seems to fly in the face of a new study from Deloitte. The firm predicts the average Canadian consumer will spend $1,347 this holiday season, down 11 per cent from last year. Amid stubbornly high inflation and rising interest rates, roughly half of the more than 1,000 Canadians the consultancy company surveyed plan to buy only what their family needs this holiday season. Seventy-one per cent said they will seek items on sale and 29 per cent will seek less expensive retailers to shop at. Kelly said frugality might be the order of the day at the household level, but it’s not what he’s seeing from companies that are organizing holiday events. “We’re not feeling a pullback at all,” he said. “Maybe on the individual spend, you might see a little bit of hesitation, but I don’t really see that yet. Our December is looking very good compared to, say, last December. “Some of those super lavish events are not there today. But overall, if you take the outliers away, we are where we were in 2019. I’m not surprised. Corporations are looking to do things again and recognize and celebrate their successes.” Downtown at the Westin and Delta Ottawa City Centre hotels, general manager Ross Meredith has a slightly different take. Many employers are being “a bit cautious” when it comes to booking large-scale office parties this season, Meredith said. “We’re not seeing any growth in that market segment,” he acknowledged. At the same time, though, Meredith said corporate conferences and bigger group meetings are back in full swing. “Any shortfall on the holiday party side is being replaced by groups and conferences,” he explained. Kelly – whose hotel is slated to undergo a $10-million makeover that will see all 276 rooms get completely remodelled starting in February – said some budget-minded companies have opted to hold their holiday parties after Christmas, once the property drops its prices. Meanwhile, the Brookstreet will also be hosting a New Year’s Eve party featuring a dinner and live music, the first time it’s done so in about a decade. Kelly said ticket sales have been brisk. “It’s been going really well – maybe even better than we thought,” he said. “There seems to be a demand. People want to get out and do something.” Kelly said the hotel is finishing the year on a high note, with projected 2023 revenues expected to come within 10 per cent of pre-COVID levels. While corporate travel has yet to bounce back fully from the pandemic, an increase in bookings from other guests has made up for it and then some, he said. “Our leisure business is stronger today than it was back in 2019,” Kelly said. – With files from the Canadian Press