Brian Leon talks Choice Canada development

TORONTO — Choice Hotels deals are coming fast and furious — with openings of Ascend Collection hotels in Thunder Bay and Vancouver, a Rodeway Inn in Pikogan, Que., and more. Brian Leon expects 20 new Choice hotels in 2019.

Brian Leon.

Brian Leon.

TORONTO — Choice Hotels deals are coming fast and furious — with openings of an Ascend Collection hotel in Thunder Bay and Vancouver, a Rodeway Inn in Pikogan, Que., and more hotels coming soon. Choice Hotels Canada president Brian Leon expects the tally of new Choice hotels to hit 20 in 2019. Choice Hotels Canada's current total is 325-odd properties.

While Choice Hotels International has hit 7,000 hotels worldwide and anticipates another strong year, Choice Hotels Canada is growing quickly too.

Ascend Collection Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay's newest, and largest, historic boutique property, the Courthouse Hotel, is now open for business after a substantial $3 million investment that saw a floor to ceiling renovation of a 95-year old courthouse building. The Courthouse Hotel is the latest addition to Choice Hotels Canada’s Ascend Hotel Collection.

“The Courthouse Hotel is a beautiful addition to the community and is sure to become an attraction in itself,” says Brian Leon, president, Choice Hotels Canada. “The unique history of the building makes it an incredibly interesting property and an outstanding addition to our Ascend Hotel Collection portfolio.”

Offering stylish guest accommodations, the hotel has 41 rooms, a fitness centre, meeting facilities and a grand ballroom that can be rented for weddings and parties. 

Many of the historical elements of the building have been preserved, including the flooring, grand staircase and bannister in the lobby along with the original judge’s bench in the grand ballroom, which originally housed the main courtroom. Pews in the old courtroom were repurposed for other parts of the hotel. The interior doors were reused, replacing their original glass panels with wood. The owner, David Sun, worked very closely with the local heritage authorities to ensure the courthouse building retained much of its historical charm and significance.

Vancouver Ascend now open

Lobby of the Belmont Hotel.

Lobby of the Belmont Hotel.

Vancouver is now home to its first ever Ascend Collection Hotel. Hotel Belmont, a boutique hotel in a landmark Vancouver building, opens today for bookings. The modern and trendy hotel is a newly-renovated, 82-room boutique property that has stood at the corner of Granville and Nelson for more than a century. 

“This hotel offers a unique product in downtown Vancouver, satisfying a gap in the hotel market. It has been designed with the millennial traveller in mind, providing a modern, fun and vibrant hotel experience,” says Juan Duran, Director of Franchise Development at Choice Hotels Canada. “We’re confident it will be loved by both the local community and out-of-town travellers.”

Based in the entertainment district, Hotel Belmont offers modern guest rooms in a fun and funky environment with food, drinks and entertainment, operated in partnership with the renowned food & beverage team of the popular Banter Room in Vancouver. The hotel has VIP rooms, multiple bars including two full-service lounges, personalized services such as luggage assistance, concierge service, and a vintage house car service for those looking to explore the diverse selection of attractions surrounding the hotel in this invigorated neighbourhood.

Designed by CHIL Interior Design, Hotel Belmont offers contemporary, beautifully decorated guest rooms with pillow-top mattresses and state of the art technology including in-room mobile device casting, blazing fast wifi and an integrated in-room tablet. In-room amenities include flat-screen televisions with high-definition cable programming including HBO and Movie Central, motion sensor climate control, locally sourced spa-grade toiletries and Keurig coffee makers.

Hotel Belmont washroom. Note the No Diving sign in the shower!

Hotel Belmont washroom. Note the No Diving sign in the shower!

Hotel Belmont actually harkens back to one of the property’s prior identities. The 1912 building was home to a number of hotels (most recently, a Comfort Inn), restaurants, nightclubs and bars like the Nelson Place Hotel and the Nelson Beer Parlour, Doolin’s Irish Pub, Champagne Charlies, Granville Entertainment’s the Cellar and BaBalu. Interestingly, the latter was a tapas restaurant where Michael Bublé had a regular gig prior to being discovered.

But Thunder Bay and Vancouver are not the only Ascend Collection hotels on the horizon. Leon expects there will be three more in the next few months, including Parksville and Kamloops, B.C., and Sarnia, Ont. 

New builds announced and imminent

Choice Hotels Canada has already announced the opening of the Rodeway Hotel in Pikogan, Que., a newly built property at the gateway to Northern Quebec.

Travellers to Nothern Quebec will have a contemporary new place to stay with the opening of Rodeway Inn in Pikogan. The newly constructed hotel is the third under the Rodeway banner in the province. 

“The new Rodeway in Pikogan has a wonderful modern design and offers a comfortable and affordable stay,” said Leon,. “We believe it’ll be a popular option for travellers visiting the region, whether for business or leisure.” 

The hotel has several onsite amenities, including a fitness room and indoor pool. All 36 guest rooms include a refrigerator and microwave, flat-screen TV with a free premium movie channel, work desk and coffee maker, as well as free Wi-Fi. A complimentary breakfast is also available for guests. 

Other new-build, modular hotels that are coming soon include a Comfort Inn in Napanee, Ont., and a Comfort Inn in Goderich, Ont. The Napanee hotel is the second branded hotel in the town, which already has a Hampton Inn. The Goderich property will be the town's first branded hotel property.

Shift in development strategy

“The market for new builds has dried up in Western Canada, and we have made a shift from a development standpoint to have fewer new builds in resource-dependent markets, but in some cases there are good conversion opportunities,” Leon said.

“We've seen aggregate great, strong RevPAR growth. Although Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland face some headwinds, there are opportunities in those markets.” he added. “When hotels face adversity — that's when a great loyalty program and reservation system become so important.”