Renovating to make the most of Montreal revival

MONTREAL— Renovations at Montreal's iconic Marriott Château Champlain hotel are part of an ongoing revival in the city thanks in part to the efforts of the city's hotel and tourist associations.

Joseph Klein, general manager.

Joseph Klein, general manager.

“Montreal is going through very exciting times,” said Joseph Klein, general manager of the Château Champlain. “And the hotel is too. In November of last year, we began a total redesign of the property. We've been managing through the renovation with limited inventory, and we remain open for business and maximize our potential.”

Montreal is having many city-wides and events. Two boutique hotels have opened up recently, including AC, which is a new brand. “We are one of the most attractive and competitive cities in the country,” said Louis Loranger, director of sales and marketing.

Louis Loranger, director of sales and marketing.

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The Château Champlain is Montreal's Centennial Hotel, built in 1967 by CP Hotels, and opening just ahead of the crowds visiting Expo 67. At the time it was the tallest hotel in Canada. Canadian Pacific sold the hotel in 1995, and it joined the Marriott hotel chain. In 2018 the hotel was purchased by the Tidan Hospitality and Real Estate Group for $65 million.

Louis Loranger, director of sales and marketing.

The Château Champlain has 592 guest rooms and 19 suites along with a health and fitness centre with cardiovascular and weight lifting equipment and indoor pool. The 40-storey hotel's arch-shaped windows were built to complement the arches of nearby Windsor station. They provide a unique look for each of the guest rooms, but have also earned the hotel the affectionate moniker, “the cheese grater.”

The location is a huge bonus, said Klein. “Montreal has so much to offer. There is a slew of events in the city, including the Grand Prix, Jazz, Comedy fest, Just for Laughs. We're in the core of the city with a large park in front and the best view of the skyline. We're also five minutes away from the main hub for entertainment and sports activities. We're right above the Metro and there are extensive walkways that go anywhere in the city.”

The split is relatively even between business, leisure and group. While business travel is paced throughout the year, leisure travel peaks in the summer, and convention business is from April to June and September to November.

Renovated king room at Marriott Château Champlain.

Renovated king room at Marriott Château Champlain.

Klein has been a member of the AGHM (Greater Montreal Hotel Association) since he arrived back in the city in 2011, and credits partnerships with the convention centre, the city's DMO, and Montreal Tourism Office for the pace of growth and investments in the core. 

“I came back to Montreal in August, 2011. I never thought I'd still be here after eight years.” He credits Tidan for some of the positivity surrounding the hotel “There's a competitive commitment to growth — a collective commitment by the owners. The new ownership has surprised us with their commitment, and the aggressive renovation.”

The hotel has been redesigned top to bottom, starting in November, 2018 with 200 of the more than 600 guest rooms getting full renovations. This summer, they will continue with a smaller number of renos, since the hotel is so busy in the summer. All of the rooms should be done by the first quarter of 2020. 

Bathtubs are out; showers are in at the Château.

Bathtubs are out; showers are in at the Château.

“Bathtubs are out; showers are in,” said Klein. “Rooms will have full entertainment systems. The hallways will be sleek and modern. We gutted the exercise area — a 3,300 square feet floor to ceiling reno with lots of light with spa services. Plans are underway to renovated the lobby and front doors. A great room was created, and MClub is no longer in the lobby. It's far more open and spacious.” 

That part of the renovation should be done by the end of 2021 and renovation of the meeting space will start next year.

Cost of the renovation is “significantly north of $30 million.”

The future looks exciting, according to Loranger. “It's the vibrant nature of Montreal, the amount of federal and provincial infrastructure, massive transportation improvements to highways and bridges. The city is at a tipping point. We're adding 16 new stations to the LRT, linking the downtown core to the airport and costing more than $1.2 billion. We're adding more ports for Montreal, which is major. We're seeing the largest real estate boom in 50 years and it's not stopping.”

The Marriott Château Champlain is one of the newest additions to the Marriott Convention and Resort Network, joining the group in January. Marriott’s CRN is a collection of 100 of the largest convention and resort hotels across the Americas that have united to deliver excellent, seamless meetings year after year. These world-class convention hotels are dedicated to providing the the best meeting experience for attendees. While the association generally focuses on large hotels with 1,000 rooms or more, it is also interested in certain specific urban districts such as Montreal, known for their convention business. 

Loranger pointed out that there is a high concentration of Marriott properties in Montreal, accounting for approximately 3,000 keys. “We will be an advocate for our destination, and feel this business model is the right one. We have a track record of 20 years that is fabulous and only going to get better.”

Klein agrees that it is completely logical for the Château Champlain to leverage the convention centre and the high concentration of Marriott hotels, in order to put the focus on Montreal and attract more group business.