(Advocate file photo).

Business is getting brisker at Red Deer hotels — but will CFR bring in as many bookings as 2018?

Location and sponsorships seem to be making a difference

Red Deer hoteliers agree the Canadian Finals Rodeo is a great economic boon for the city — but whether they will experience the same benefits as last year is up for debate.

Several south-side hotels are definitely feeling a boost in occupancy since the rodeo started Tuesday.

The Holiday Inn and Suites, near Westerner Park, has received calls from people driving to Red Deer for the rodeo, but still has availability.

The Black Knight Inn, which is hosting the rodeo’s ladies barrel racing, is fuller than usual for this time of year, and is expected to get more booked up toward the weekend.

Shannon Gale, the hotel’s rooms division manager, said, “We’re not full-full yet, but we’re pretty busy.”

Another rodeo event sponsor, the Cambridge Inn and Suites, is also fielding more business — although it’s hard to separate rodeo from conference bookings because most people don’t specify what event they are here for, said front office manager Tu Nguyen.

“Things are picking up and there are a fair bit of CFR-sponsored people staying in the hotel,” he added.

Business at the Sandman Hotel is brisker — but the front office manager doesn’t think it will be as busy as during the CFR’s first year in Red Deer in 2018.

Whether the cause is Alberta’s prolonged economic slump, or a tough year in farming, she is noticing a drop in business from the same time last year, when the hotel was full.

Other inns — particularly those in the north side of Red Deer — are not as busy as they would like to be.

“Things are picking up a little, but not what we expected at all,” said Sherrie Luxton, general manager of Best Western Plus.

“It’s quite a bit less than last year, when we were really full.”

Bookings seem to be stronger for Agritrade this year, than the rodeo, she added, “but we’ll have to see the final numbers…”

A manager at Comfort Inn and Suites assumed that the hotels that are sponsoring rodeo events are getting the bulk of the business.

Vimal Pillay, general manager of the Ramada by Wyndham Hotel, is also not seeing the same hike in occupancies as last fall.

Whether the economy or the weather have something to do with it, Pillay added, “We’re not seeing the same number of reservations.”

But he still thinks the CFR “is a good thing for the city, no doubt about it.”

Mike Olesen, who led the planning for the 2019 rodeo and is the incoming CEO of Westerner Park, anticipates more than 45,000 people will attend the six-day rodeo event.

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