SAN FRANCISCO — Sonder, the tech-enabled hospitality company that originated in Montreal, has properties opening in Canada’s three largest cities. Next week, Sonder will open 66 apartment-style suites in the former Coast Plaza Hotel in Vancouver. They started 2020 with zero suites in Toronto and now have 100 suites in four different properties, including the former Beverley Hotel on Queen Street, and 60 units in King’s Club at 1100 King Street West in Liberty Village. In Montreal, they have Guerin Lofts in the Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, offering one, two and three-bedroom accommodation.
“We really see growth in all three of these cities,” said Mason Harrison, Sonder’s director of communications. Sonder has over 12,000 units across more than 35 cities around the world. Typically, units are apartment-style with kitchens and sometimes more than one bedroom, but are accessed using technology — no need for a front desk at Sonder.
Sonder offers a technology-enabled hospitality option that can work either in traditional hotels or in apartment buildings. “We offer an apartment-style format that folks really want, and we do have both categories of growth [hotels and apartments].
“Sonder units can provide a greater ROI for hotel owners. A lot of hotel operators are also owners who want to own their asset as operations of hotels continue to evolve. We can plug and play our model into their building.”
Sonder’s Canadian properties are all located in neighbourhoods that are close to the downtown core — an area where traditional hotels are hit hardest by COVID.
“[The owners] hand over the heart of the work,” said Rael Maze, general manager at Sonder in Toronto. “They hold the asset; we do the work; and we share the upside of that.”
“Sonder has had an amazing year, and we are even stronger due to our investment in technology and experiences,” said Harrison. He added that Sonder is receiving RFPs for hotels because they are unique, boutique, new and modern.
“One of the things I love about Sonder is that not everything takes place inside the hotel — we provide a vehicle to access the city,” said Louise Cooperstrom, general manager of the Pacific Northwest for Sonder. “Guests can cook in our kitchens rather than going to a restaurant on site. Their experiences should be on the outside of the building, exploring the city as it should be experienced. Vancouver’s West End has what people are looking for more of — beaches, parks, etc.”
Sonder’s new hotel, located in Vancouver’s West End, is the first hotel to open in the city in a very long time, said Cooperstrom. The hotel is currently listed by Sonder and is due to open Nov. 17. “The rooms are extraordinary, and this type of accommodation is unique in Vancouver,” she told CLN. “The rooms are great for people who are coming back from a different country and have to self-isolate, and for people travelling to Whistler. Cooperstrom said Sonder has a few properties with similar apartment-style units that will be live in Vancouver by the end of 2021.
“Sonder has definitely outperformed traditional hotels across the world — they’ve outperformed by multiples,” Cooperstrom said. “It’s because we offer long-term stays and the whole model is touchless. We’re not emphasizing the touch points you see in traditional hotels. Guests have their own kitchen; they don’t have to go out to eat.”
Rael Maze, general manager at Sonder in Toronto, said Sonder is seeing more COVID-related demand because their suites are larger and more functional for those who want a longer stay. “Our actual length of stay is increasing,” he told CLN. Other guests include those who need a place to stay because the condos they have bought are not being completed as planned. The year of COVID has actually been good for Sonder, he said. At the beginning of 2020, Sonder had no units in Toronto; now they have more than 100 suites in four different properties.
Sonder has just added the new Toronto suites in King’s Club at 1100 King Street West. There are 60 suites ranging from studio to three bedrooms. “The building has a rooftop pool and a gym. It’s an apartment building, and we have 10 per cent of the units.” The building also has a lot of synergistic retail including a Winner’s, a Shopper’s Drug Mart, a McDonalds and a WeWork.
In January, Sonder opened 18 units at Toronto’s former Beverley Hotel, adding some cosmetic touches and new technology to the units. “There’s a rooftop bar that works six months of the year, and there’s a ground-floor coffee shop rather than a traditional lobby.
Montreal, where Sonder originated, has the Guerin Lofts units with one to three bedrooms in each.
“In each of those cities — Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver — we’ve done our due diligence in regard to taxes and regulations,” said Harrison. “We’re also participating on committees and boards in order to modernize the laws. We’re working shoulder to shoulder with them to craft regulations that will pave the way for the new future of hospitality. We’re investing in the future… and with COVID, the future has come a lot faster than we thought.”