CALGARY — Microtel has developed its own Canadian prototype for the brand's hotels, Eric Watson, president and CEO of MasterBUILT, told CLN this week. There are significant differences in the exterior elevation and public spaces versus the U.S. prototype announced recently, as the brand is positioned in the midscale to upper midscale segment in Canada versus the upper economy to lower midscale in the U.S.
“Elements within the rooms are comparable, but Canada always had more amenities, and our footprint is not quite as small as in the U.S.,” said Watson.
There are two prototypes developed in Canada — an urban prototype and one for tertiary markets, which allows for more flexibility for the exteriors.
“We have more of a central storefront look, more glazing and windows that make it look more inviting. And we have the best fitness rooms in the competitive set. We specify a boardroom in our base prototype, and offer the flexibility of adding more meeting space.”
The Canadian prototypes created a core of the building that is suitable for properties ranging from 68 to 120 rooms. “We can add rooms on the side or on top,” said Watson. “And big differentiators in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canda, are our pools and waterslides. This is not necessarily something you'd see in the U.S. — though they do have the option of outdoor pools.”
The Canadian prototypes aim to achieve an upscale look to the hotels without adding a lot of extra costs. They have opened up the lobby, where it used to be a flex room.
The Mont Tremblant Microtel, which opened in February incorporates many of the features of the new prototype and the Aurora, Ont. Microtel, now under construction, will have many of its features as well.
“In Mont Tremblant, we have a more open, welcoming and engaging lobby experience, a nicer sense of arrival,” said Watson. “We've added even more plug-ins to the lobby environment, so that people can work on their laptops. Tremblant is a great hotel for people to come and see elements specific to the location, including pitched roofs to handle the snow load, and more wood and stone on the exterior.”
Lobbies have more colour, and more flexibility when it comes to adding local touches, such as local art.
“We're achieving efficiencies in the back of the house, making sure the IT server is programmed properly for best-in-class Internet. We've integrated the staff room and the laundry room — paying more attention to the public spaces, where owners make their money.”
Watson adds that the construction allows for prefabricated steel and wood wall assemblies, and the exterior cladding is panelized in the interest of costs and predictability of pricing.
“We're the best value option in the midscale segment,” Watson said, adding that there are a number of commonalities between the U.S. and Canadian guest room prototypes, including the roller blinds added to make the rooms more upscale, and in-room millwork that aids both in design and efficiency.
Watson anticipates as many as eight groundbreakings this year. The Aurora hotel is already under construction, and other Ontario locations including Kanata, Port Elgin and Toronto Airport should break ground in the next three to nine months. In the Montreal area, at least one hotel should break ground this year, with at least three expected in 2020. There are a few deals being finalized in Atlantic Canada, and a few potentially starting in B.C. as well.
Other MasterBUILT projects include a Trademark Collection hotel in Whitehorse, and another Wyndham-branded property in Winnipeg that should start construction this year.