Shattering the suburban cookie-cutter mould

GLō exterior.

GLō exterior.

PHOENIX — Best Western has unveiled its GLō new construction boutique prototype, suitable for secondary, tertiary, suburban and university markets. Canada's first GLō will break ground in Ottawa next spring.

“The first GLō in Canada will break ground in February or March of 2017, weather permitting, construction will take 12 months and it should open in the first quarter of 2018,” said Ron Pohl, senior vice president of brand management/development for Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

GLō lobby.

GLō lobby.

“GLo works wonderfully in Canada, if you look at secondary, tertiary and some downtown locations. In major cities, there are footprint challenges due to the cost of the land. Suburban Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa or any university town are key locations for this brand.”

GLō originated after Best Western launched its Vīb brand. A lot of developers were interested, but had land and sites in suburban or secondary markets. Vīb was not intended for those markets — it depends a lot on foot traffic for success, and works best in downtown locations in centres such as Toronto or Vancouver.

“We went back to the drawing board to create a new concept that would work well in these markets,” said Pohl. “The idea was to take the most important elements of Vīb, to have the same energy within the product, and come up with a unique design that was not cookie cutter.” The end-result would be the first boutique midscale hotel in the business.

As in Vīb hotels, the lobbies in GLō properties will be usable at all times of day and for a wide range of activities. 

Two rooms showing centre-loaded bathrooms.

Two rooms showing centre-loaded bathrooms.

One of the most significant features is the centre-loaded bathrooms. Bathrooms and closets usually take up much of the space as guests enter the room, but the GLō design puts the bathrooms back to back longways in the middle of the two rooms. This means guests get an unobstructed view as they enter, and that the rooms look larger and more open. The actual size of the rooms is around the midscale norm of 250 square feet for a king room and 290 for a double queen room, but the positioning of the bathrooms makes them seem bigger.

GLō king room.

GLō king room.

While GLō has a contemporary design, and is aimed at connected travellers, providing flexible space and high-speed Internet, it is a hotel for all age groups, not just millennials.

“We recognized the need for a desk. While some brands have eliminated the desk, we disagree. A desk provides comfort for many travellers,” said Pohl. GLō provides both a built-in desk and a lap desk — basically a padded board that sits on your lap.

“The most important thing for developers is the cost per square foot. We looked at every area and included what it needs to have, but not more,” said Pohl.  “For example, the difference between a five-foot wide corridor and a six-foot corridor can mean a $250,000 expense. A pool is not a requirement but a fitness centre is critically important. We looked carefully at exterior building materials to make sure they were not too expensive. We asked, 'how much artwork do we really need?' This might seem minor, but when you're dealing with four storeys and 70 rooms, it adds up. We wanted the high-end boutique feel, but we didn't want to go overboard.”

GLō cafe.

GLō cafe.

GLō is also designed for easy cleaning, with most of the furniture attached and off the ground, hard surfaces instead of carpets. “There's no vacuuming, and mopping up is much easier. The floors should last and the furniture should last — so owners don't have to replace it as often.”

In the U.S., GLō costs $65,000 per key not including land. Normally a hotel of that cost would command a $55 ADR, but GLo is expected to have an ADR in the mid-to-high $80s, said Pohl.  Canadian numbers would be one-third higher.