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TORONTO — Anil, Anish and Rajan Taneja are the third generation at Palm Holdings, a company founded by their grandfather and then managed by their father, Ashok.
Anil Taneja, president, told CLN that his grandfather was an orphan, who at the age of 12 ran away from India to Africa. He started with an Indian sweet shop, then bought some of the stores around him, then purchased apartments to make a 15-room hotel. When the Kenyan government expropriated the property of Indians living in that country, the operation moved to England. There they started with a travel agency; then bought a group of five houses, knocking down walls to make a hotel. Today, they have stuck to the model of buying hotel properties, constructing or renovating them, and then selling.
The past year has been good for Palm Holdings, Taneja said. “Previously we were not as focused on the Ontario market, but in 2013 we decided to firmly put our feet down in Ontario. We have had a robust last 12 months.”
During that time, Palm Holdings purchased the Travelodge Chatham Ontario, the Travelodge London and Travelodge Niagara Falls. They opened the Four Points by Sheraton in Waterloo, sold the Travelodge Chatham, opened the Marriott TownePlace Suites in London; purchased the Quality Suites London; and sold the Four Points by Sheraton in Waterloo. After all those transactions, they currently have five Canadian hotels.
The renovation and rebranding of the Travelodge London to a TownePlace Suites by Marriott is an example of how Palm operates. They bought the hotel from Royal Host in March 2014, and opened as a TownePlace in January of this year. By renovating, they retained some of the previous customers, but raised the price per key from $70 to $100.
“We like to put our personality as a group into the hotels,” said Taneja. The TownePlace Suites has distinctive, modern lighting and an artists’ map of Canada carved in wood that Anish Taneja had found on a trip. There’s a feature wall in the lobby as well as a gym.
Palm Holdings concentrates on the public areas when renovating, Taneja said. “If you customize the rooms, you can spend so much money on changes.”
Last month, they added the Quality Inn Halifax to their portfolio. “We are excited to be in Atlantic Canada with our first property outside of Ontario,” Taneja said. The hotel has 130 rooms and a 3,700-square-foot full service spa, a swimming pool and a water slide.
At the Travelodge Niagara Falls, they are restrategizing their operations, and the hotel’s revenues have gone up 35 per cent. The Niagara Falls market is benefitting from the drop in the Canadian dollar and the price of oil.
In Waterloo, Palm Holdings owned 49 per cent of the rooms until last year when a Delta, Homewood Suites and Holiday Inn Express were added to the market.
While they are committed to Canada as their now primary focus, Palm Holdings continues to grow in the U.S. and U.K. markets as well. Currently, they have four hotels in the U.K. and one in the U.S.
Selling hotels in order to create opportunities for new purchases is part and parcel of Palm’s business plans. “It breaks my heart because of loyalties, but it’s necessary for the growth of the business,” said Taneja. “If an opportunity comes by in an area with high exposure, it makes a lot of sense.
Taneja added that 2014 was the best year the company has had, and he can’t see why 2015 can’t be the same or better. “We will continue to grow by making strategic purchases and adding value to hotels and operations.”