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MCLEAN, Va. — DoubleTree, the brand with the signature warm cookies at the reception desk, has expanded its presence in Canada over the past few years. It now has eight hotels with more than 1,500 rooms in Canada. The Victoria, B.C. location opened up last month, while Manga Hotels announced it would be converting the Travelodge at Toronto Pearson airport to a DoubleTree in a $10-million renovation. This property is just down the road from the International Plaza Hotel, which was formerly a DoubleTree.
“Hilton Worldwide Sales is truly excited about the growth of the Doubletree Brand in Canada. We continue to provide more great hotels in strategic locations across the country and this benefits our customers who are looking to book meetings and events with Hilton Worldwide,” said Vito Curalli, executive director, Canada, Latin America and International.
“We have opened seven in the last two and a half years,” John Greenleaf, global head of DoubleTree, told CLN in an interview. “I’m excited about the progress. The product we have opened is really top stuff.”
Existing properties include Halifax, which was an adaptive reuse project, taking a downtown office building and converting it. West Edmonton, Victoria, Gatineau, Kamloops, Toronto, Niagara Falls and Regina round out the portfolio.
A DoubleTree in London, Ont. will open later this year, Greenleaf said.
In many cases, Hilton took a tired but venerable property and made it beautiful — as in Regina with the former Regina Inn and in Toronto with the former Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnut Street.
Greenleaf points to the former Met as a case where the owner made a significant investment, and the hotel has performed extremely well as a DoubleTree.
Indeed, Greenleaf noted it is the flexibility of the brand and its conversion possibilities that have made it so popular in Canada and other areas of the world.
“For the owner, it’s an opportunity for the asset to perform better and to invest in the hotel.
“It works beautifully for a variety of hotel products in different markets,” he added.
In addition to the eight current properties, DoubleTree has two Canadian hotels in the pipeline and one under discussion.
Canada is not the only country that has grown its DoubleTree footprint. The company currently has 425 properties across six continents and 35 countries, with a fast-growing pipeline of 431 properties.
Greenleaf said it’s more than the cookies, the wake-up DoubleTree breakfast, Sweet Dreams bed, fitness facilities and tech in the lobby that makes DoubleTree successful. There’s also a service culture called “CARE” as in Create A Rewarding Experience.
DoubleTree hotels compete for a CARE cup every quarter. It’s a sought-after honour for the hotel to take to heart, said Greenleaf. “It’s a differentiator.”
Becoming a DoubleTree
While the hotel is suitable for conversions, it has standards that must be met in terms of room size, location, competitive set and neighbourhood,.To ensure the experience is consistent, there is a set of requirements that hotels must meet.
“It’s a very selective process and we have the best development team in the business,” said Greenleaf.
But there is flexibility. “ We go into a hotel knowing that it is going to be renovated.
“We look at where the money should be invested — in the facade or in restaurants. We create a design narrative, unlike brands that have an option of two, three or five room designs,” he said. The narrative talks about fabrics, textures, lighting, fixtures and lines of sight. They work with approved designers, including some Canadian designers.
Hilton vs. DoubleTree
While both Hilton and DoubleTree are upscale brands, one difference is that DoubleTree is willing to go into secondary or tertiary markets as well as major gateway cities and resort locations. They have a lower room count than Hilton, and are more flexible about location and key count.
While Canada is an important market, the biggest pipeline is in Asia, particularly China, the Middle East and Dubai, said Greenleaf. “For the first time, we are building more hotels outside the Americas. We are truly a global brand.”