Hilton’s mysterious “Project Canvas” comes Tru

Tru by Hilton lobby.

Tru by Hilton lobby.

TORONTO — In recent months, Hilton has been alluding to a new brand, dubbed Project Canvas, that would be announced at the Americas Lodging Investment Symposium (ALIS) in January.

When the announcement of the new midscale select service brand named Tru came last month, it was something of a fait accompli, with 201 deals signed and 30 in the pipeline.

No firm deals in Canada yet, although Hilton says it will roll out the new brand in the U.S. and Canada before going global.

So just what is this new brand that Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said could become as big as Hampton, a behemoth with 2,045 properties worldwide?

“It’s a brand aimed at a very specific market, a step below Hampton in the way it’s designed,” said Vito Curalli, executive director, Canada, Latin America and International Sales. “Hampton is now the upper midscale tier segment leader, but as it became more upscale, there was a void, a need for something more midscale in price point. That left a spot open for us to fill.”

In the U.S., 40 per cent of guests stay at economy or midscale properties — a figure that probably applies to Canada as well. The other focus is on young travellers, and while Tru is built to all ages, there is obviously more discussion around millennial travellers, Curalli said.

“Simplified” and “spirited” are two words that describe Tru by Hilton, Curalli added. Simplified includes doing the basics well — the bed, the television, the technology integration — at a price point that fits. Spirited includes The Hive, Tru’s vibrant, energetic, 2,270-square-foot open concept lobby.

“The Hive reflects the evolution of lobbies into social connection areas, where people can be connected to their devices, but also connected to each other. There’s more food and beverage integrated into the lobby. People can interact, use their technology, eat and drink. 

“There’s also a Play Zone, where millennials can do more than just sit around. They can play table games, and there’s a huge mobile TV and stacked seating,” Curalli said.

The “build a breakfast” concept is a change from the traditional breakfast buffet, and includes a topping bar with 30 sweet and savoury items that can customize bagels, donuts, Greek yogurt and oatmeal.

Hilton’s digital key — an HHonors mobile app that provides access to guestrooms, elevators, side doors, the fitness centre and even the parking garage ­— is part of this new brand.

Tru is expected to fill the midscale gap in key cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but there may be opportunities in secondary markets as well. 

“My impression is that it is a great opportunity for the next generation of Canadian travellers to take advantage of a brand that speaks to them,” Curalli said. 

“It’s a new product that customers can embrace and try something different. The Hive is really new, whether the traveller is corporate or leisure. From a sales and marketing perspective, it’s not just a new brand, but a different type of hotel stay.”