LAS VEGAS — A total of 178 Canadians attended the Canadian reception at Choice Hotels International's Conference in Las Vegas early this month. That's the biggest turnout ever, said Brian Leon, president, Choice Hotels Canada.
Along with the Canadians, there were senior CHI people, and Choice franchisees from Australia, Mexico and Ireland. “It was a good opportunity for our franchisees to meet with CHI and people from other countries,” said Leon.
The reception, held on top of Delano tower, celebrated the Canadian Hotel of the Year, the Quality Inn Amsterdam Fredericton, N.B. “Out of our 325-odd hotels, the Quality Inn Amsterdam was in the top five for likelihood to recommend, service and cleanliness,” said Leon. “As long as I can remember, this is the first time a conversion hotel has won Canadian Hotel of the Year.”
The event also celebrated the 10 Platinum, 21 Gold and 47 Silver award winners. “We rolled out the Silver category because it was becoming increasingly hard for really good hotels to earn the award,” Leon said.
Choice was also celebrating the Hall of Fame Award, which the company received recently from the Canadian Franchise Association. “On the one hand we are a hotel business; on the other hand we are a franchise organization,” Leon said, noting that there are more than 700 member companies in the CFA, and it was a great honour for Choice to be picked as No. 1 out of 700.
“The process included being nominated by a third party, and CFA was exhaustive in its due diligence regarding processes for franchisees and levels of franchisee satisfaction.”
Seeing the benefits of choiceEDGE
Choice Hotels International's transition to choiceEDGE, the first new global reservation system from a hotel company in more than 30 years, is now fully implemented to support Choice's 7,000 properties across the globe, and the company is starting to see the benefits, Leon said.
ChoiceEDGE and its cloud-based design are built to handle the current and future volume on digital channels. The platform manages all distribution for Choice Hotels, optimizing rate, inventory, availability, shopping, booking and reservations for its website, mobile apps and third-party distribution partners. The project, which began in 2014, is led by the Choice Hotels' technology innovation team, based in Phoenix, Ariz.
“It's a massive project that positions us for a lot of future leadership,” said Leon. “As Pat Pacious [CHI president and CEO] said, so many companies end up outsourcing distribution. We can do that all in-house. It's a huge project, but we are the first company to do it.”
New international website platform
Leon also mentioned a new international website platform. Choicehotels.com is a very strong platform with very strong conversion rates. The new international websites will now have the same functionality as choice hotels.com. “That will provide meaningful differences in conversion rates and performance,” he said. “It will also give us the ability to add more Canadian content — and we're getting it first. The new website platform for Canada should roll out later this year.”
Quality, Clarion, Sleep & MainStay logos
Last year, Choice rolled out the new logos for Comfort, Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites. This year, Quality, Clarion, Sleep Inns and MainStay Suites have new logos. Choice Hotels Canada franchises the first three brands. While Canada has a few MainStay Suites hotels, they are franchised by Choice Hotels International.
The Clarion logo has changed the most, from a claret colour to blue. In addition to a new logo, there is the newest addition to the Clarion brand. Clarion Pointe is an extension of the brand for select serve, primarily conversion midscale and upper midscale properties. The new blue Clarion logo is similar to the Clarion Pointe logo.
“Clarion Pointe emphasizes certain very specific brand touchpoints,” said Leon. “They've done a lot of research showing that millennials and empty nesters want great technology and workout facilities. They're easy to operate as they're still limited service. There are no F&B requirements except a breakfast buffet and a 24-hour expanded pantry.”