TORONTO — Brian Leon, managing
director for Choice Hotels Canada, provided a Canadian take on the many
initiatives announced at the recent Choice Hotels International Conference.
As in the U.S., Canada has a huge
focus on central reservation systems, and has seen “exceptionally strong” CRS
growth of 22.3 per cent in the two years since April 30, 2015. Bookings on
brand sites or apps is up 14.4 per cent in the same time frame.
Choice, like other brands, is
encouraging guests to book direct to keep distribution costs as low as possible
for the franchisees. Leon noted that for the first time since the OTAs started
to grow, Choice’s direct bookings are starting to grow faster than bookings
“The rollout of the Choice Privileges
Member Rate has been really well-received,” Leon added.
Revenue management is a huge area of
focus, said Leon, noting that Choice Hotels Canada created the new director of
revenue management position occupied by Tamer Dalati. “We needed that
kind of high-level, strategic role so we know how to optimize
revenue management throughout the company.”
He pointed out that the larger hotels
have directors of revenue management, while mid-size properties can benefit
from the Choice RM program and all hotels will have the ability to participate
in Smart Rates.
Leon added that Choice has spent a
lot of time doing a “way deeper dive into the segmentation of our business
across the company.” Learning more about where the business is coming from
at the hotel level provides a simple way to show franchisees how to optimize
rate and occupancy.
Comfort continues to grow
Leon told CLN that Choice is looking
at new builds, primarily Comfort Inn and Suites, in tertiary markets. “We can
buy land way cheaper and sometimes do better than we do in bigger markets,” he
said. There is often limited or no presence of branded hotels in these centres.
For example, in Goderich, Ont., the
new Comfort Inn and Suites is the only branded hotel in town; in Napanee, Ont.,
it is the second branded hotel in the area. Leon added that there are three
Comfort Inn and Suites deals finalized and another four are expected in the
next six months.
“There has been monumental change in
the Comfort brand over the past three years, with over $100 million in capital
going into existing Comforts,” he said.
New build Comforts are coming online
in Terrace and Merritt, B.C.
“Comfort Suites is a great new-build
brand for secondary markets where there are competitors such as Hampton,
Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield. Comfort Suites gives us a leg up on the
competition,” said Leon.
Choice Hotels Canada has also
indicated the strength of Ascend, the upscale soft brand with 13 properties
across the country, by hiring a dedicated person, Juan Duran, as director, membership development, Ascend Hotel Collection. Duran will grow the
brand across the country, except for Quebec and New Brunswick, where Marc
St.-Gelais “is doing a great job.”
“Ascend is strategically important as
it allows Choice to penetrate the upscale segment, and provides an opportunity to grow in more urban markets where new builds are prohibitive,” said Leon.
“It also appeals to guests looking
for a local experience — that’s what Ascend gives them. It rounds out our
portfolio. It’s also great for loyalty — guests can go on vacation to Ascend.
We have tremendous presence in South America, Scandinavia and the U.S.”
The 13th Ascend is located
in Orillia, Ont., and owned by Sunray. The old Champlain Hotel was stripped
down to the studs and redone. It should be online in September.
Owners are looking at multiple
Ascends to build their brands, said Leon.
For example, the owner of Chateau Moncton and Chateau Saint John has
realized that he can grow that brand by layering it with Ascend.
New Hotel Openings:
So far this year, Choice has opened
nine hotels — on track for one of its biggest years ever with 20
openings. Recently opened hotels include the following:
Comfort Inn & Suites, Merritt,
British Columbia, which has 44 guest rooms with modern amenities including
premium bedding, a flat-screen TV, in-room coffee and tea service, iron,
ironing board and hair dryer. Its business centre and meetings rooms can
accommodate up to 100 people.
Clarion Hotel & Conference
Centre, Sherwood Park, Alberta which has 258 guest rooms with modern amenities
including kitchenette and fireplace. The hotel also has a Bistro that is open
for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a gym that includes a pool and
state-of-the-art gym equipment including treadmills and bikes, plus
22,000 square feet of meeting space that can accommodate up to 1,300 people.
Hotel Quartier, an Ascend Hotel
Collection Member, in Quebec City, Que., which has 140 guest rooms with
amenities that include flat-screen TV, desk, refrigerator, coffee maker, hair
dryer and iron. The hotel also has six meeting rooms, which can accommodate up
to 250 people for banquets and conferences and an Italian restaurant, Barolo
Pasta & Grill.
Book to Build
Choice Hotels Canada has announced
the launch of their new Book To Build campaign, a charitable program in
partnership with Habitat for Humanity to raise an estimated $100,000 for
families in need of shelter.
From Friday, June 23 to Sunday, July
9, guests staying at any of the participating Choice Hotels’ locations will
have a portion of their stay donated to Habitat for Humanity.
One hundred per cent of their
donations will go to Habitat for Humanity chapters to help local families
New offices a few blocks away
Choice Hotels Canada is also moving just a few blocks from their current east Mississauga location on Explorer Drive. As of June 5, 2017, their new address is: 5015 Spectrum Way, Suite 400, Mississauga, ON L4W 0E4