COLLINGWOOD, PORT ELGIN, Ont. — Dunn Capital Corporation is launching its first hotel properties, both Holiday Inn Express & Suites, in Collingwood and Port Elgin, Ont. DunnCap is a real estate development company with four decades of experience in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional real estate. Among its holdings are the Lora Bay residential development, purchased by DunnCap in 2010. The complex has 1200 residential doors and a championship golf course. They also own the Georgian Bay Club, a golf club between Collingwood and Thornbury, Ont., which was named Best New Private Golf Club in Canada by Golf Digest when it opened in 2004.
The Holiday Inn Express Collingwood opened Sept. 27, and Port Elgin will open on Oct. 30.
“This is our first venture into hospitality and we picked quite a time to do it,” Larry Dunn, president and CEO of DunnCap, told CLN. “I’m happy at the way the projects turned out, and will be drawing on the experience of our two experienced general managers.” Sharif Khair, who managed the pre-opening of both properties and is now GM at Holiday Inn Express Collingwood, came from the city’s Comfort Inn & Suites, where he was GM for 10 years. Trevor Raynsford, who is GM of the Port Elgin Holiday Inn Express, was previously GM at the Super 8 in Port Elgin for 20 years.
Dunn is proud to say that both were 12-month builds, despite COVID. “[Scheduling] the trades was not too bad, though things did slow down at the end of March and beginning of April,” Dunn said. “The supply chain was another matter, with items coming from overseas being held up at the border or the port in Montreal.”
Dunn lives in Collingwood, and knows that market well. “The Holiday Inn brand had been in Collingwood for many years, starting with the Cranberry Inn [now Living Stone Golf Resort] in the 1970s. [The brand] had enjoyed success for many years. When the flag went down, I inquired at IHG,” Dunn said. He added that he has travelled 150 or more days per year and has had a chance to experience different flags. “With Holiday Inn Express, I know exactly what I’m getting.
“With COVID a lot of people are moving out the the GTA. The Collingwood property has been full on weekends and people are starting to find us during the week,” he noted.
Collingwood general manager Sharif Khair said he is happy with the new brand and that the Collingwood team is working hard to present the hotel to the market. “If we offer a great guest experience, then people will talk nicely and we will keep them satisfied,” he told CLN. The Collingwood property includes two restaurant pads. “We have received a couple of applications for these,” Khair said.
Khair joined DunnCap in February, and was the initial opening manager for Port Elgin as well — which meant he went back and forth between the two properties regularly. He said that the chambers of commerce of both towns have been very helpful with the hotels. Khair, who is originally from Afghanistan, has been in Collingwood for 15 years, starting his career in hospitality as a night auditor; then graduating to front office manager and later becoming general manager. Before that, he had a very different career as a field worker with the United Nations, travelling to many of the world’s hot spots.
Nicole Fraccaro is director of sales and marketing for both hotels. She noted that she expects the Collingwood clientele to be varied, including leisure travellers, and groups such as dance and hockey teams. “The rooms are perfect for families,” she said. “There are companies with ties to the area, and they will come in for meetings.” In the longer term, the Gateway Casino being built between Collingwood and Wasaga Beach could also be a key market.
DunnCap has been building houses in Port Elgin for many years, and the hotel is located right next to one of those developments.
“Port Elgin continues to grow and open up,” said Raynsford. “We had $100 million in building permits, and we are well underway this year as well. The life extension project at the Bruce Power Development has started up, and will be a 20-year project. Our sandy shores are good for tourism from June to September. We have some lovely parks including McGregor Point — we service people who go to the parks. And the Canada 150 celebrations really put Port Elgin on the map.”
The Port Elgin property has 60 rooms over four floors, with public and meeting areas on the first floor and the second, third and fourth devoted to guest rooms. There is an indoor pool, exercise room and breakfast area.
“We have a variety of disability rooms, meeting the ADA standards,” said Raynsford. They have doorbells on the doors of five guestrooms that can accommodate the hearing impaired using strobe light and a high-pitched ring. There are 13 rooms that have two queen beds and a queen sofa bed, and some rooms are extra wide for families as well. Most rooms have walk-in showers, with a few lower tubs for families.
Raynsford said they are having no trouble recruiting staff, and that there is a waiting list. Aside from Bruce Nuclear, another big employer in the area is the 7Acres cannabis plant near Tiverton, Ont.
Both hotels will have soft openings, with grand openings planned for the spring.