TORONTO — Immediately following the Choice Hotels International Brand Session for The Ascend Collection, owners, managers and Choice executives all raised a glass of champagne to celebrate the brand’s success.
The collection of historic buildings and upscale properties that are “ridiculously local,” had a banner year last year with 43 openings, and there are now more than 200 hotels in the collection across the globe.
Canada contributed to that success. “We have 13 properties and we’re growing fast,” said Brian Leon, managing partner for Choice Hotels Canada. “Worldwide, as operators, we’re learning more about Ascend.
“There are no Ascends in Western Canada yet — it’s just a matter of time.”
Leon added that the brand has shown good growth in revenue, and that 58 per cent of reservation delivery to Ascend is through the Choice reservation system.
“The benefits are broad — reservation delivery, access to Choice resources and tools, and Choice Privileges as loyalty becomes more important.”
Canadians just love loyalty programs, and it is hard for independent hotels to get access to robust programs like Choice Privileges.
Access to Choice’s revenue management programs also provide “a pretty big opportunity to drive revenue and be efficient in distribution, and in avoiding OTA fees,” Leon said.
Some Ascend Collection properties, such as the St. James in Toronto or the Le Grande Allée in Quebec City, are in city centres, “which makes sense for us because our brands are under-represented in downtown urban cores. We’re stronger in secondary and tertiary markets,” said Leon.
“We’ve got pent up demand in our reservation system for downtown properties in Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton. The St. James has had very high reservation delivery and is an upscale, boutique hotel,” he added.
Upscale suburban, secondary or tertiary market locations are also good candidates for The Ascend Collection, Leon said. “The Chateaux out east index really well in their markets, leading in guest satisfaction and rate performance.”
There are three Chateau properties in Atlantic Canada: Chateau Moncton, Chateau Saint John and Chateau Bedford in Halifax.
Resorts such as Hidden Valley Huntsville are the third category of Ascend Collection property, and Leon would like to see Ascend Collection hotels in centres such as Whistler or Banff.
Leon told CLN that Choice Hotels will be rolling out its Smart Rates revenue management system in the third quarter of this year.
“Smart Rates adds a whole new dimension to revenue management. It scrapes the Internet to find the rates of competitors. Every day, Smart Rates is updated with a whole set of recommendations.
“A hotelier can accept, override or decline those rates. It’s really user friendly and a really good, thoughtful program based on data and complex algorithms,” he said.