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Hotels in downtown Halifax fully booked for Dalhousie graduation

A phone call to the Advancement Office at the University of King’s college rang in a pressing issue for graduating students and their families. 

Adriane Abbott, the director of the Advancement Office, was on the receiving end of the call from a concerned parent of a graduating student in late February. The parent, upon having difficulty booking a hotel room in Halifax for the May weekend, contacted Abbott to warn her about the rapidly dwindling availability of accommodations in the downtown area. 

Abbott reached out to a local hotel manager, who explained that a large convention had booked a vast number of rooms at hotels in the downtown core. 

Andrew Turnball, the General Manager of Delta at Barrington and Delta Hotels Halifax, shed some light on the convention competing with Dalhousie and King’s graduation for accommodation space. He explained that the Canadian Federation of Municipalities conference spans from May 31st to June 3rd – the same window of time as the bulk of Dalhousie and King’s 2018 graduation ceremonies. The conference blocked out a large number of rooms at downtown hotels, some of which he suspects will become available a few weeks closer to the convention date. 

To Abbott, the possibility of space becoming available in the future is isn’t much of a consolation.  

“I also know that there’s a waiting list of about 400 people trying to get into one of the hotels downtown,” Abbott said.  

The waiting list doesn’t just apply to graduates and their families, but it’s representative of the availability crunch Halifax hotels are facing. 

Joseph Fish, a graduating student at Dalhousie, understands the difficulty of the situation. Fish’s mother had to get creative when finding a place to stay for her son’s graduation. He says his mother booked a hotel in the fall of 2017 only to realise that she’d booked the wrong date. When she attempted to re-book, she was left out in the cold. 

“I think the closest hotel she could find was […] in Dartmouth or by the airport or something,” Fish said. “So instead she just decided to book an Airbnb.” 

After the phone call from the concerned parent, Abbott sprang to action, sending out an email blast in order to alert students and their families that booking a hotel room in downtown Halifax was going to be tricky. She recommended looking into Airbnbs and bed and breakfasts, and posed a creative alternative. 

“I also asked whether we could put a block of rooms aside for parents and families who might be prepared to rough it a bit and be prepared to stay in our residences,” Abbott said. “I think that there have been quite a few bookings that have been taken up.” 

Dalhousie’s communications department confirmed the competition with conventions for booking, noting that the opening of the convention centre has drawn several large conferences to Halifax. The department referred to the various accommodations available on campus, which can be booked through the summer accommodations website, 

Abbott pointed to Halifax’s role as a convention city playing in to the city’s need for development. 

“I think that there is a move afoot in the city to build hotel accommodation now that we have a larger convention centre that people are more eager to come to,” Abbott said. “There will always be a convention. It’s about booking early perhaps, and perhaps this is a lesson learned that we will encourage parents and let parents know when we post the date of our graduation to let people know […] to book right away.” 


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