Manitoba’s first Best Western Premier serves a need

By Peter Mitham

WINNIPEG – Best Western
Hotels & Resorts has launched its first Premier-branded property in
Manitoba, the Best Western Premier Winnipeg East, and the 141-room hotel is
adding to the transformation of the city’s historic Transcona neighbourhood.

“Transcona is an old rail community in Winnipeg,” said
general manager Steven James. “[It’s] a rapidly growing community with
middle-income families.”

But it’s also home to a significant industrial and
commercial area that includes a campus of the Canadian National Railway Co.,
Granny’s Poultry Cooperative and the headquarters of New Flyer Industries Ltd.
one of the largest bus manufacturers in North America. The businesses attract a
significant amount of visitor traffic that the Sharfe family and its partners
didn’t feel was being served by existing hotels.

“The east side of the city was underserviced, particularly
by quality hotels with full-service capabilities,” James said. “The decision to
build in the Transcona market, which has a number of large international
companies … was a shrewd move by the owner.”

Best Western Premier Winnipeg East general manager Steven James (far left) holds the ribbon for Leslie and Heather Fenyes (COO), hotel owners Sherwood and Elaine Sharfe and their son Kevin; Pamela Bielak; and Tyrone Shannon of Best Western International at the grand opening.

Best Western Premier Winnipeg East general manager Steven James (far left) holds the ribbon for Leslie and Heather Fenyes (COO), hotel owners Sherwood and Elaine Sharfe and their son Kevin; Pamela Bielak; and Tyrone Shannon of Best Western International at the grand opening.

The area is also home to several recreational facilities,
from pools to playing fields that host local and regional sporting events.
These attract leisure travellers, particularly on weekends, rounding out the
potential market for the hotel.

But if the property is filling a niche in Winnipeg, it also
marks the first Best Western Premier hotel in Manitoba and one of just eight in
Canada. James says the decision to open under the Best Western Premier flag was
driven by the opportunity for the newly built hotel to set itself apart.

“Requirements from Best Western for the Premier-brand hotel
lends better to a new-build property for the most part than to an existing
hotel,” James explained.

Best Western Premier rooms are know for their fine style and upscale amenities.

Best Western Premier rooms are know for their fine style and upscale amenities.

The Winnipeg East property
includes 77 guest rooms and 64 spacious suites, each equipped with a large
flat-screen television, microwave and refrigerator as well as plug-ins for
mobile devices. The large lobby welcomes guests to a breakfast buffet featuring
made-to-order omelettes and in the evening
there’s a bar for relaxing. Craft beer is available for purchase on site, too. A
full-service business centre rounds out the guest amenities.

There’s also an emphasis on top-line meeting facilities,
with three rooms ranging from 300 to 1,000 square feet.

“We have the ability and we’re looking at building a small
trade centre attached to the hotel, which will help drive more conference
business to our property and the community,” James added.

The proposed conference facility will be able to accommodate
banquets of 400 to 500 people.

Pool facilities are a unique element of the Best Western Premier Winnipeg East.

Pool facilities are a unique element of the Best Western Premier Winnipeg East.

Given the opportunity to serve leisure travellers, the hotel
also features pool facilities, including a waterslide, something many Best
Western Premier properties do not offer.

“Its focus is primarily on the corporate traveller,” James
said. “We’ve taken a little bit of an adjustment on that and put in
recreational facilities to assist with weekend occupancy, family visits and vacation
travellers.”

Designed
by Calnitsky Associates Architects and built by Bird Construction, the hotel officially
opened on September 17. Traffic has been good, James reported, with 80% of
guests being corporate travellers.

“The reaction to our product from our hotel guests and
visitors has been exceptional,” he said. “It’s a very different experience from
what you would find at most other hotels.”

The brand was introduced to Europe and Asia in 2003, and
debuted in North America in 2011. The brand’s long history in the demanding
markets of Europe and Asia informs the level of service it’s become known for
here, James believes. Its
stylish designs, attention to detail and personalized service won it top spot
among upscale hotels in the J.D. Power 2019 North America Hotel Guest
Satisfaction Study.

“Because they were catering initially to a European
expectation or an expectation from the Far East, the level of service and
approach to detail is far more refined than what you might normally see in some
areas of North America,” he said. “Most hotels take several years to reach
built-up occupancy, or sustainable occupancy. I’m a firm believer that we will
hit that in half the time you normally find.”