Manitoba’s first Best Western Premier serves a need

By Peter Mitham

WINNIPEG – Best Western Hotels & Resorts has launched its first Premier-branded property in Manitoba, the Best Western Premier Winnipeg East, and the 141-room hotel is adding to the transformation of the city’s historic Transcona neighbourhood.

“Transcona is an old rail community in Winnipeg,” said general manager Steven James. “[It’s] a rapidly growing community with middle-income families.”

But it’s also home to a significant industrial and commercial area that includes a campus of the Canadian National Railway Co., Granny’s Poultry Cooperative and the headquarters of New Flyer Industries Ltd. one of the largest bus manufacturers in North America. The businesses attract a significant amount of visitor traffic that the Sharfe family and its partners didn’t feel was being served by existing hotels.

Best Western Premier Winnipeg East general manager Steven James (far left) holds the ribbon for Leslie and Heather Fenyes (COO), hotel owners Sherwood and Elaine Sharfe and their son Kevin; Pamela Bielak; and Tyrone Shannon of Best Western International at the grand opening.
Best Western Premier Winnipeg East general manager Steven James (far left) holds the ribbon for Leslie and Heather Fenyes (COO), hotel owners Sherwood and Elaine Sharfe and their son Kevin; Pamela Bielak; and Tyrone Shannon of Best Western International at the grand opening.

“The east side of the city was underserviced, particularly by quality hotels with full-service capabilities,” James said. “The decision to build in the Transcona market, which has a number of large international companies … was a shrewd move by the owner.”

The area is also home to several recreational facilities, from pools to playing fields that host local and regional sporting events. These attract leisure travellers, particularly on weekends, rounding out the potential market for the hotel.

But if the property is filling a niche in Winnipeg, it also marks the first Best Western Premier hotel in Manitoba and one of just eight in Canada. James says the decision to open under the Best Western Premier flag was driven by the opportunity for the newly built hotel to set itself apart.

“Requirements from Best Western for the Premier-brand hotel lends better to a new-build property for the most part than to an existing hotel,” James explained.Best Western Premier rooms are know for their fine style and upscale amenities.

Best Western Premier rooms are known for their fine style and upscale amenities.

The Winnipeg East property includes 77 guest rooms and 64 spacious suites, each equipped with a large flat-screen television, microwave and refrigerator as well as plug-ins for mobile devices. The large lobby welcomes guests to a breakfast buffet featuring made-to-order omelettes and in the evening there’s a bar for relaxing. Craft beer is available for purchase on site, too. A full-service business centre rounds out the guest amenities.

The Winnipeg East property includes 77 guest rooms and 64 spacious suites, each equipped with a large flat-screen television, microwave and refrigerator as well as plug-ins for mobile devices. The large lobby welcomes guests to a breakfast buffet featuring made-to-order omelettes and in the evening there’s a bar for relaxing. Craft beer is available for purchase on site, too. A full-service business centre rounds out the guest amenities.

There’s also an emphasis on top-line meeting facilities, with three rooms ranging from 300 to 1,000 square feet.

“We have the ability and we’re looking at building a small trade centre attached to the hotel, which will help drive more conference business to our property and the community,” James added.

The proposed conference facility will be able to accommodate banquets of 400 to 500 people.Pool facilities are a unique element of the Best Western Premier Winnipeg East.

Pool facilities are a unique element of the Best Western Premier Winnipeg East.

Given the opportunity to serve leisure travellers, the hotel also features pool facilities, including a waterslide, something many Best Western Premier properties do not offer.

“Its focus is primarily on the corporate traveller,” James said. “We’ve taken a little bit of an adjustment on that and put in recreational facilities to assist with weekend occupancy, family visits and vacation travellers.”

Designed by Calnitsky Associates Architects and built by Bird Construction, the hotel officially opened on September 17. Traffic has been good, James reported, with 80% of guests being corporate travellers.

“The reaction to our product from our hotel guests and visitors has been exceptional,” he said. “It’s a very different experience from what you would find at most other hotels.”

The brand was introduced to Europe and Asia in 2003, and debuted in North America in 2011. The brand’s long history in the demanding markets of Europe and Asia informs the level of service it’s become known for here, James believes. Its stylish designs, attention to detail and personalized service won it top spot among upscale hotels in the J.D. Power 2019 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study.

“Because they were catering initially to a European expectation or an expectation from the Far East, the level of service and approach to detail is far more refined than what you might normally see in some areas of North America,” he said. “Most hotels take several years to reach built-up occupancy, or sustainable occupancy. I’m a firm believer that we will hit that in half the time you normally find.”