Canada’s Top 50 hotel companies closed out 2015 with gross sales of $19.9 billion, up 6.5 per cent from 2014. Mergers and acquisitions dominated headlines as the hotel companies padded their portfolios to defend against the growing impact of online travel agents such as Expedia Inc. — which reduces hoteliers’ power to set rates — and competition from home-rental companies such as Airbnb Inc. (see sidebar on p.10) But, while the industry was abuzz with M&A activity in 2015, the leading five operators on this year’s Top 50 Report showed little movement in terms of rankings.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which finished 2015 with estimated $4.5 billion in sales, remained in the number-1 position, opening new properties in Bahrain, France, South Korea, Colombia and Morocco. The brand embraced technology last June when it introduced the multi-functional, content-rich global Four Seasons App, which allows guests to make and manage reservations; check-in and check-out; book luggage pickup and airport transfers; make special requests; order room service, book restaurant and spa reservations and tee times; as well as access maps.
“With this innovative new app, Four Seasons continues to enhance the guest experience, setting the standard in luxury digital-service delivery,” says Allen Smith, president and CEO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “Developed based on guest insights and extensive testing, the Four Seasons App is user-friendly and feature-rich, with the services guests have told us they most desire.”
Close on Four Seasons’ heels, in second position, FRHI Hotels and Resorts posted estimated gross sales of $4.1 billion in 2015. FRHI, parent company of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Raffles Hotels & Resorts and Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts, made headlines last December when it signed a deal with Paris-based AccorHotels worth approximately $2.9 billion U.S. in cash and shares. The deal, expected to close in mid-2016 pending shareholder approval, will add 155 hotels and resorts (40 of which are under development) and more than 56,000 rooms worldwide to Accor’s portfolio. Canadian properties included in the deal are the Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec.
Climbing two spots this year to third place, Marriott Hotels of Canada grew from $785 million in 2014 to $1.4 billion in 2015, thanks in part to its acquisition of Delta Hotels. The lodging juggernaut continued to gobble up the competition last year, acquiring Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide for $13.3 billion, following a bidding war with China’s Anbang Insurance. The deal creates the world’s largest hotel company with more than 1.1 million rooms in 5,500 hotels worldwide across more than 30 brands.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. experienced rapid expansion in 2015, opening Four Points properties in Surrey and Moncton; the Element Vancouver Metrotown; and signed deals for two new-build properties — the Westin Calgary Airport and the Westin Edmonton Gateway. The brand reported 2015 gross sales of $999 million, up from $912 million in 2014 and good enough for fourth spot in this year’s Top 50.
Then, in December, the Stamford, Conn.-based company sent shockwaves through the industry when it announced Marriott International’s bid to acquire Starwood’s assets.
From a development perspective, Four Points by Sheraton continued to lead Starwood’s pipeline in 2015, while demand for the Aloft brand generated a 65-per-cent increase in signings over the prior year. Deals for brands such as St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels and Sheraton also experienced growth. “This was a remarkable year of record-breaking growth for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, with the highest number of both signings and organic openings in any single year in the company’s history,” says Simon Turner, president of Global Development. “We continued to enjoy balanced growth across both mature and emerging markets and across all of our brands, with a notable increase in the number of conversions. Approximately one-third of our openings in 2015 were conversions.”
Wyndham Hotel Group dropped one position this year, rounding out Hotelier’s top five companies. With estimated gross sales of $859 million, the publicly traded company based in Parsippany, N.J. added six new units to its portfolio, bringing its total Canadian properties to 511. Last year, Wyndham signed a deal with Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Corinthian Development Company to grow Wingate by Wyndham in the U.S. and Canada. The agreement will see $250 million invested in 15 new-construction Wingate by Wyndham units during the next two years in top markets such as Toronto, Vancouver, Denver, Seattle, Nashville and Boston.
In October, the company launched a new rewards program for meeting planners. Go Meet allows meeting planners to earn points for every dollar spent at participating hotels. Making a reappearance on the Top 50 after a few years’ absence, Travelodge/Thriftlodge came in at number 21 with gross sales of $140 million. The Calgary-based company currently has 98 units in Canada. In April 2015, Florida-based Waramaug Hospitality Canada LLC, in partnership with Alberta’s Superior Lodging Corporation, announced the purchase of the master license rights to Travelodge Canada from Halifax-based Holloway Lodging Corporation. The newly formed joint entity, Superior Lodging Development TL Corporation, led by CEO Marc Staniloff, CEO, oversees the continued growth of the Travelodge brand in Canada. “The market is ripe for continued expansion,” says Staniloff. “We intend to remain on the forefront of the market and appeal to new and existing franchisees and investors alike to realize a solid investment from our foothold in Canada.”
Volume 28, Number 5