By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
MONTREAL — At 244 rooms, Travelodge Hotel by Wyndham Montreal Centre is the largest of the brand in Canada. Situated in downtown Montréal, it caters to business people, families and backpackers seeking an economical option in a central location.
General manager Naja El-Khoury has been at the Travelodge, working for owners Tidan Hospitality and Real Estate Group, since late 2013. Tidan has owned the Travelodge since 2000/2001. The company has 12 hotels all together: 10 in Quebec, one in Kingston, Ont., and one in Florida. In addition to the Travelodge Montreal, El-Khoury is also mentoring the GM of the Thriftlodge Hotel in Kingston, Ont.
Director of sales and marketing, Mehdi Arbi, is from Tunisia and is fluent in three languages: Arabic, French and English. And because his native country is a tourist destination for travellers from Europe, he knows German and Italian as well.
This area of Downtown Montréal has just 3,000 rooms. This hotel is in a prime location close to the Festival Area, restaurants, shopping, the South Side and Vieux Port, and the Basilica de Notre Dame. It’s on Rue René Lévesque West in the business district. The convention centre is within five minutes walking distance.
Some of the rooms are unique triple and quad rooms— with either two single beds and one bunk up top in the 19 triples, or two singles and two bunks in the 22 quads. It all fits neatly with a smart design into rooms that are 16 square metres (160 square feet). All of the rooms have 42″ televisions.
“This appeals to students, groups, FIT travellers and families,” said Arbi. Business travellers make up a substantial portion of the clientele, and the property gets convention business between May and October.
Occupancy in Montréal as a city has been good this year. 2017 was a record year for the city thanks to Canada’s 150th birthday, and Montreal’s 275th. In 2018, occupancy was a little bit off, but the summer was busy. This year is better than last, and “we are aiming for optimistic results,” said Arbi. “There are lots of hotel openings in Montréal. The new four- and five-star hotels in the city have had an impact, increasing RevPAR for the Travelodge.”
Other room types are twin, with two single beds, double, and Queen. There are 11 corner suites equipped with both a Queen bed and a sofa bed.
The hotel lobby was recently renovated with new furniture, an e-Concierge, a discount rent-a-car desk, seating area and a long desk facing the street where travellers can work or connect using the free WiFi. This is the first year the rent-a-car desk will be open in the winter on a trial basis. It’s a feature that appeals to the FIT European traveller, Arbi said.
The major renovations actually started in November, 2014 and were finished by June 2015. These included major work on plumbing, ceramic tiles, showers, installation of shower doors, painting, bedding and draperies. The public door to the lobby was changed, along with paining and new lighting. The hotel features a gym-with-a-view, which was installed in 2015.
The latest renovation was a 300 square foot panoramic meeting room that was added just over a month ago, taking the place of two washrooms which were demolished. The furniture for the whole hotel was replaced last winter.
The renovations also included the restaurant, which was previously open only for the complimentary breakfast. Last September, Branzino Restaurant moved in, offering an international menu with sports bar items such as wings and burgers. The restaurant also serves alcohol at reasonable prices.
“When we did the renovations, the clientele shifted; we repositioned the hotel completely,” El-Khoury said. Before, the clientele was mainly tour and travel occupancy, with a lot of walk-ins. Once they upgraded, they attracted new market segments. “Back then, we were the McDonalds of hotels in Montréal,” El-Khoury said.
Today, El-Khoury would describe the clientele as follows. The main market is the association market, attracted by the nearby conference centre. They have made inroads with the corporate market segment. Other markets include tour and travel, and SMERF (sports teams, religious groups, and student tours).
There is a sizeable government segment, since the Travelodge is surrounded by government offices — Hydro Québec, Revenue Canada, Service Canada and the America Embassy to name a few. They are also close to the hospital, CHUM. There is still a sizeable transient and leisure client base, especially during events like the Grand Prix or Bell Centre Events, when rates in the city are quite high.