TORONTO, Aug. 13, 2018 — UNITE HERE Local 75, the largest representative of hotel workers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), recently obtained party status before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal in relation to an application by Great Eagle Hotels (Canada) Ltd to redevelop the Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto. Great Eagles’ redevelopment proposal is currently under appeal before Ontario’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
The Chelsea Hotel is the largest hotel in Canada offering 1590 rooms for visitors to Toronto. In 2015, an application was filed by Great Eagle Hotels (Canada) Ltd. to change the zoning of the Chelsea Hotel site to permit a mixed-use redevelopment consisting primarily of residential condominium units. In May 2018, Great Eagle reached a settlement with the City of Toronto. As part of this settlement, the redevelopment will be required to include a new hotel containing a minimum of only 400 hotel rooms. This would represent a loss of nearly 1200 hotel rooms in the heart of Toronto’s downtown.
An LPAT hearing on the merits of the proposed redevelopment is scheduled to commence on October 1, 2018. UNITE HERE Local 75 intends to challenge the settlement reached between Great Eagle and the City of Toronto.
“UNITE HERE has been engaged in this process since the outset. We obtained party status in order to share the economic and planning evidence we have relevant to the proposed redevelopment with the Tribunal, which we will present in October,” said Nuredin Bulle, UNITE HERE Local 75. “Our research verifies that the potential loss of nearly 1200 rooms in the downtown core will have a detrimental impact on Toronto’s ability to host visitors, particularly in the highly competitive and economically lucrative meeting and convention industry.”
UNITE HERE Local 75 engaged urbanMetrics Inc, a firm with expertise in market research and land economics, to conduct an independent analysis of the travel and accommodation industry within the city, including travel industry market trends, economic impact of visitor-related spending, hotel market data, and hotel-related employment in the region. The analysis clearly indicates that hotels are essential in supporting Toronto as a major travel destination and that convention and business visitors are important contributors to the local economy. Specifically, the urbanMetrics study has found that:
- Overnight visitors spend significantly more than same day visitors. In 2016, overnight visitors to the area spent more than $6.4 billion, or 80 per cent, of the $8.0 billion in total visitor spending, almost $1.4 billion of which was spent on accommodation.
- In 2016, 1 in 5 overnight visitors to the region were convention and business visitors and more than 1.4 million convention and business overnight visitors spent over 3.7 million nights in a hotel located in the region.
- Convention and business visitors spend 1.5 times the average spending per visitor than any other type of visitor. In 2016, convention and business visitors spent $1.92 billion in the region, with 89 per cent of this spending coming from overnight visitors.
- In 2016, total visitor spending in the region stimulated ±$6.1 billion in total economic output, supported more than ±77,880 full-time years of employment, generated total labour income of ±$3.7 billion annually, and generated total government revenues of an estimated ±$2.4 billion in total taxes.
“The urbanMetrics’ analysis should serve as a wake-up call for city officials and everyone involved in Toronto’s tourism and hospitality sector, particularly if Toronto is to stay competitive with other major cities in Canada and across North America,” added Bulle. “UNITE HERE is optimistic the LPAT will review our evidence and recognize that the dangerous trend of hotel conversions in downtown cores cannot continue. The Chelsea Hotel is an immediate opportunity for decision-makers to demonstrate their commitment to sustaining Toronto as a premiere tourist and convention destination.”
About UNITE HERE
UNITE HERE is the strongest hotel union in North America with more than 270,000 members, the vast majority of whom are hospitality workers. UNITE HERE Local 75 represents nearly 8,000 hospitality workers at 43 hotels in the GTA, including workers at the Chelsea Hotel.