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LONDON, Ont.; GRAND PRAIRIE, Alta., HALIFAX, N.S.; KELOWNA, B.C. — Ask Jonathan Lund of Fortis Properties the purpose of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Owners’ Association, and he comes up with three things.
“For me, it’s about working together to enhance owners’ returns, to guide IHG, and to get stuff done, particularly regarding Canada.
“We as owners have a voice. The Canadian Committee is very active, with members from British Columbia to Newfoundland, representing our interests across the country,” he told CLN.
Glenn Squires, president of Pacrim and partner in Maplewood, chaired the Owners’ Association in 2011 and is still involved as a past chairman. He said the purpose of the association is “to protect and enhance asset value and ROI. We work hand in hand with IHG to find ways to enhance the system, to make properties more profitable, to make assets worth more and to make the brands stronger in Canadian markets.”
The 10 people on the committee also represent all IHG brands operating in Canada, and represent single owners and multinational owners and management groups.
In addition to the Canadian committee, each member sits on a number of U.S. committees, including brand committees for Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge, etc.; and other committees dealing with responsible business, people, and IHG Rewards. Lund sits on the Holiday Inn brand committee, the operations committee and is currently incoming chair of the people committee.
Canada has a seat on the board of the Owners’ Association, currently held by Jonathan Lund.
The Canadian committee has three key initiatives — Canadian-based events including a two-day sales training and development conference that is “really well attended and very effective,” according to Lund.
There are owner summits that provide face time with senior IHG executives, such as Oliver Bonke, chief commercial officer, The Americas, who attended last year. “This really opened up dialogue and Q&A, giving Canadian owners a voice,” he said.
The third event is the Canadian session held each year at the IHG North American Convention. This year, a panel included Tony Pollard, Hotel Association of Canada; Robin McCluskie, Colliers; David Larone, PKF; and Luke Mahew, IHG.
“There are things that really touch Canadian franchisees, and we can mare sure they’re communicated,” said Jeff Krivoshen, chief operating officer of P.R. Hotels Ltd., who has been actively involved at the committee level since 2006.
The Canadian session is attended by 300 people. “They have had a full day and a free night, but they’re clamouring for information and want to know what’s going on. They’re the ones that are counting on us sitting on the board,” Krivoshen said.
Aligning Canada and the U.S.
One of the main purposes of the Canadian committee is to look at the implementation of brand and entertainment standards in Canada.
“A lot of things are developed in the U.S., and Canada is closely aligned for the most part. But Canada has its own set of issues, including geography — the distribution of hotels and the distances between them; provincial laws and regulations including Quebec language. We have to make sure our websites and collateral materials are in French,” Lund said.
Costs can also differ in Canada, due to currency, customs and exchange rates. Often products from the U.S. don’t make sense in Canada — Canadian hoteliers need Canadian vendors to deal with those issues. The Canadian group now partners with InnerWorkings, a purchasing and sales organization.
“Our yogurt and oatmeal standards are different,” said Lund. “We still use Greek yogurt and oatmeal, but the U.S. brands specified were not available and cost-prohibitive. Sourcing cinnamon buns was also much easier in the U.S.,” noted Lund.
Federal or provincial regulations make a difference. In the U.S., IHG can give out drink vouchers — in Canada they’re not allowed.
The HDTV standard was also problematic in Canada because it was not available immediately in all areas of the country, and costs were sometimes significantly different. In the U.S. there are hundreds of suppliers, while in Canada there are only three.
“The costs of putting HBO in a hotel are a lot different in Canada,” added Krivoshen. “Our cable supplier would charge us $10 to $12 per room for the one channel.”
The Green Key program in Canada is different from Green Engage, the IHG program, and Canadian hoteliers are working to align the programs and make Green Key known in the U.S.
Felix Seiler, COO of Holloway Lodging Real Estate, who is based in Grand Prairie, Alta., is currently vice-chair of the Canadian Committee and works on the revenue delivery committee, which deals with ways to get average rates up.
“This has a lot to do with how IHG manages rates at the hotel, and how this information gets transmitted to the consumer,” Seiler told CLN. We have a lot of discussion across all brand about the online travel agencies (OTAs) and how we can use technology to manage our business.”
Seiler has been involved with owners’ groups for other brands. “The nice thing about IHG is that it lets us be part of the decision-making,” he said.