LOS ANGELES—Choice Hotels International announced its 100th Ascend Collection property at the Choice conference in Los Angeles last month—and it’s in Canada. Choice Hotels Canada, which has eight of the 11 Choice brands—has added the Hotel Elan in Calgary. It will become the eighth Ascend Hotel in the Canadian collection.
Names of the 100 Ascend hotels were portrayed on stars mounted on the wall of the meeting room as part of a Hollywood-themed brand session celebrating the fast-rising brand. In just four and a half years, Ascend has grown from nothing to the current 100-property total, and has set a goal of achieving 100 more properties in just half the time, according to Michael Murphy, senior vice president, Cambria Suites & Ascend Collection.
Since its debut in 2008—at the beginning of the recession—The Ascend Collection has quintupled in size, adding new properties on three continents and five countries, further establishing its position as a leader in the growing trend toward affiliation for independent hotels.
In 2012, the collection added nine hotels between May and December. This year’s tally—as of May—is 30 hotels and resorts internationally.
Canada’s total of eight Ascend hotels is expected to rise in the near future, as the brand looks to expand, particularly in Quebec.
“Quebec has 60 per cent independent hotels, while the rest of Canada has only 40 per cent,” explained CHC managing director, Tim Oldfield.
“We are so excited to add Elan, in beautiful Calgary, to our Ascend family of hotels,” he added.
Hotel Elan was not the only CHC property to open during conference week.
The others were two Comfort Inns—one in BC and the other at Calgary Airport.
Choice Hotels International is also planning to launch the first Cambria Suites in Canada soon, likely in Calgary.
Choice Hotels Canada currently has 308 hotels, and plans to have 315 by the end of 2013, according to Oldfield.
Managing director Brian Leon outlined some of the company’s philanthropic initiatives—all based on shelter and education with a focus on children.
Charities supported include the Aga Khan Foundation, Canadian Feed the Children and Sleeping Children Around the World. A raffle at the end of last year’s conference raised enough money to supply 100 bedkits to Sleeping Children around the World. Each bedkit consists of a mattress, mosquito net, school kit, books and more, all locally made.
Leon pointed to the Quality Inn, Red Deer, AB, which raised $7,500 during the month of April with initiatives such as bar karaoke, coin boxes, and a calendar featuring hotel wait staff. “Guests were swept up in it and there were some good sized cheques,” said Leon, adding that progress was charted on a thermometer at the front desk.
In other news, Choice Privilege Club members grew to 923,000—a number that has doubled in the last three years. The goal in the coming year is to top 1 million members.
At the conference, the Comfort Inn Bayer’s Lake was named Hotel of the Year.
And the conference also paid tribute to longtime Choice employee, Cheryl Warner, manager of franchise support, who has worked for Choice Hotels Canada for 25 years. In a video, colleagues and former colleagues spoke of Cheryl’s contributions since she started as a management trainee at what was then called Journey’s End Downs-view in 1988. Tim Oldfield also presented her with a bouquet of flowers.