Hôtel Monville, one of the newest four-star properties in the heart of Montreal, is the quintessential picture of urban chic. From the spacious and work-friendly lobby, to the abundance of floor-to-ceiling windows, to one of the country’s first room-service-delivery robots, Hôtel Monville is a testament to the evolving tastes of the 21st-century urban traveller.
Located mere steps from the Palais des congrès de Montréal and Old Montreal, Hôtel Monville opened for business on May 15, 2018 following three years of planning and construction. The hotel is part of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Lifestyle Collection, becoming the first Canadian hotel in the category. The sleek but understated 20-storey structure boasts 269 rooms and suites — all of which feature king beds.
Hôtel Monville is a significant change for asset manager Marc Saunier, who was previously in the same role with Old Montreal’s Hôtel Gault — the intimate 30-suite boutique hotel, which, along with Hôtel Monville, is owned by Nathaniel Fraiberger.
“With Hôtel Gault, we created a niche for people looking for good service and comfortable surroundings,” Saunier explains. “We did very well, with a 90-per-cent-plus occupancy rate over the past six years. When business in Montreal started going up in 2015, we figured, let’s do another [hotel].”
When putting together the new project, the Hôtel Monville team took a completely different route that would speak to the future of technology, the hotel industry and the landscape of the city itself. As Saunier explains, “We wanted to create something nobody had ever seen in the business to fulfill guest expectations for technology and service.”
The team started with extensive research into new-concept properties by Virgin Hotels and Standard Hotels in the U.S., as well as CitizenM in the Netherlands. “All of them were trying to reinvent our industry by putting available technology into their businesses,” says Saunier. “But, we also knew technology was not enough. Sometimes, when you get into advanced technology, you can forget the basics of service.”
For example, the team didn’t want to go the route of self-check-in mobile apps, instead choosing to create a fully integrated check-in process that connects to all of the hotel’s technology — including property-management and POS systems, televisions, Internet, elevators, et cetera — to create a seamless check-in experience.
On arrival, guests are greeted by a valet who escorts them to a self-check-in counter replete with multiple, large-screen terminals. The entire process, including printing of room keys and tickets, can be completed in less than two-and-a-half minutes.
“It took us three years of development to get to what we have today in our lobby,” Saunier says. “And I would be lying if I said we have reached 100 per cent of our expectations. When you’re dealing with tech and interfaces, it’s an ongoing process. And, we’re still developing for the future so we can get better.”
“We are now adding a web-check-in capability,” he adds. “At that point, arriving guests will be able to scan the confirmation on their phone to get their keys.”
Although the front desk is comparatively small and discreetly tucked away, there’s no shortage of staff to help guests with requests. Beyond the self-check-in counter is a comfortable lounge area, bar and restaurant (Gourmet Monville), where executive chef Morgan Hunter serves up casual, fine-dining and grab-and-go selections — all freshly made with local ingredients.
The spacious lobby area is intended to be a welcoming, cozy and comfortable space that “isn’t snobbish and can adapt to everyone,” Saunier explains. “We wanted to be a new-generation hotel that wasn’t a copy of our industry colleagues — something original that had style and would be inviting to guests and non-hotel guests coming in.”
An important aspect of Hôtel Monville’s charm is its commitment to local businesses and artisans. Up to 95 per cent of the work done on the property was provided by professionals from Montreal or elsewhere in the province. For example, the builder and architect — Pomerleau and ACDF* Architecture, respectively — are both based in Montreal and the lobby and second-floor public areas showcase large photographic murals by local artist Valérie Jodoin Keaton.
LED lighting is supplied by Montreal’s Lambert & Fils, Luminergie and Standard Pro, while the wooden panels in public spaces and guestrooms are crafted by Beaubois in Sainte-Marie de Beauce, Que. and staff uniforms are designed by Frank and Oak. Even the all-natural, organic personal-care products in guestrooms are sourced from Oneka in Frelighsburg, Que.
The hotel’s staff is also a reflection of Montreal, Saunier notes, with 48 different nationalities represented and the average age of team members at 28. Many hail from nearby Collège LaSalle, as well as from schools around the world. “We wanted to show the world what Montreal is really like and the type of Montrealers you will meet today,” Saunier says.
A popular feature — and a true novelty in the Canadian hotel scene — is H2M2, a fully integrated room-service robot that waits patiently in the lobby for its next mission. Saunier estimates H2M2 is used up to 50 times a day, serving guests placing room-service orders via their phone or television.
As for the guestrooms and meeting areas, space is maximized to the fullest, with floor-to-ceiling windows and electrically powered blackout blinds to save energy and create a sense of openness.
Now that Hôtel Monville is thriving and posting a healthy 78-per-cent annual-occupancy rate, the team is considering other locations in busy urban markets. “We are not looking to open resorts at the bottom of the mountains,” says Saunier. “We’re not the right people to do that and we don’t have the right concept for that. Big-city, downtown areas are where we want to stay.”
The plan is to keep to the Canadian market for now, he adds. “There’s enough space in [Canadian] cities to build a business. And we have a young team pushing us to grow so they can become general managers. We would be delighted to give them that space.”
Additionally, Saunier believes the future is particularly bright for independent hotels in Canada. “Certain customers want to go to independent hotels for a different type of experience,” he says. “In Europe, independents account or 48 per cent of the market. In Canada 80 per cent of hotels are chains. I think this will change.”
And, as Saunier sees it, with the right design approach, the customers of the future can be very well served in the four-star market. “With Hôtel Monville we believe we have created a new style template that will change the industry.”
Written by Denise Deveau