Realstar Hospitality, a full-service franchisor of the Days Inn by Wyndham, Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands, is a unique player in Canada’s hotel industry. Through reinforcing the value of its relationships with franchisees, arranging a number of new-build and conversion projects and supporting local communities where they operate, Realstar Hospitality is well-positioned to thrive in the post-pandemic landscape.
The company opened a Motel 6 in Brooks, Alta. in June 2021 and a 56-room Days Inn by Wyndham in Lamont, Alta. in June 2022. Additionally, the signing of a Studio 6 in March 2022 marked the first of what will become a portfolio of three new construction Studio 6 locations built in northern Ontario. There are also nine hotels in the pipeline for Days Inn and five for Motel 6.
Headquartered in Toronto, Realstar Hospitality – Hotelier’s Company of the Year – is a subsidiary of Realstar Group, which was established in 1974 by Jonas Prince (Irwin’s brother) and Wayne Squibb. In 1992, the company acquired master-franchise rights for the Days Inn brand in Canada from Hospitality Franchise Systems (now Wyndham Worldwide) with 19 hotels. In fact, June 1 marked 30 years since the company started franchising the brand. In 2003, the company acquired the Canada-wide licensing agreement for Motel 6 and Studio 6 Canada through a joint venture with Accor SA (now G6 Hospitality). Over the years, the Days Inn by Wyndham brand has grown to include more than 110 independently owned and operated properties across the country, while the Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands have grown to include more than 30 franchised properties.
Over the course of the pandemic, its franchisees benefitted from extensive support packages, ramped-up communications and new policy direction.
“During the pandemic, we became better listeners,” says Irwin Prince, president and COO, Realstar Hospitality. “Owners and managers described the multitude of challenges they faced, both operational and financial, and we concentrated our efforts on assisting in every way possible. For example, we continuously provided all hotels with best practices on safety and cleanliness to protect hotel associates and their guests; we created and shipped every hotel a full suite of guest-facing collateral; we communicated complete details on all government-assistance programs and COVID-19-related matters on an ongoing basis; and we modified and adjusted brand standards to simplify operations and reduce costs wherever possible. As a result, we’ve come through this [global] period of unexpected stress as a stronger company.”
Prince emphasizes sales and marketing, training and procurement as major company strengths. Realstar Hospitality also provides guidance in other areas, including quality assurance, operations support and purchasing excellence, revenue management and e-commerce and architectural, construction and renovation.
“Our hospitality professionals are focused on providing best-in-class service to our owners. To maintain our high level of support throughout the stress-filled pandemic, we determined that we would not lay anyone off to reduce work hours. Instead, we kept our whole team engaged and focused on improving service and sales support to our franchise community. That commitment to our team and our franchisees proved to be the right decision.”
Additionally, Realstar Hospitality is committed to charitable giving. For the last 20 years, the company has been a proud supporter of The SickKids Foundation through its greeting-card initiative. The company also had a robust partnership with Childhood Cancer Canada spanning 10 years, raising hundred of thousands of dollars. Under its parent company, Realstar Group, Realstar Hospitality also supports Second Harvest on an annual basis to help improve food security for Canadians across the country. Recently, Realstar Hospitality made a donation to Nellie’s Emergency Shelter for women and their children leaving situations of violence, poverty, and homelessness.
“I’m extremely fortunate to work for Realstar Hospitality, a company that prioritizes supporting communities across Canada alongside our tremendously generous owners and operators,” says Ally Wesson, VP of Marketing, Realstar Hospitality.
The future looks promising for Realstar Hospitality. There are a number of Motel 6 and Studio 6 properties that Prince says will “break ground” in Northern Ontario at the end of this year, narrowing in on smaller markets with high demand but limited supply. Furthermore, a number of conversion properties will be joining the Days Inn brand and are slated to open in late winter or early spring of 2023. “We’ve had a lot of interest in conversions, but there’s also a keen interest in new construction. Franchisees are looking at our new designed-in-Canada Days Inn prototype and the clean, contemporary look of Motel 6 and Studio 6 new-construction hotels,” says Prince. “There’s renewed interest in smaller markets for strong economy-oriented hotels. We’re also hearing that there has been a tendency to overbuild in some markets, spending more money on a brand or tier than is necessary. As a result, we’re finding that Days Inn is hitting a sweet spot in terms of being a highly recognized and cost-effective brand to build, with more-than-competitive construction and operating costs. Similarly, there is a compelling case in many areas for the unique selling proposition of Studio 6, where you have a growing demand for extended-stay business. We’re excited about that activity in our development pipeline.”
Prince continues, “Our 2022 numbers are above 2019. Owners are keen to re-invest in their assets. Hotels that had to defer capital projects have started to re-visit their plans and are now working to have updates completed by next spring. We’ve been working with vendors, and although supply chain is still a challenge, we’re focused on getting owners back to where they were and becoming even better.”
When it comes to choosing a franchisee, Realstar Hospitality wants someone who’s committed to the brand and will contribute to its success as a franchisor. “It’s important for a franchisee to be a people person,” says Prince. “They need to be a good leader because they’re running a small company at every hotel. They need to be able to motivate, train, coach and reward their staff while ensuring guests receive the best possible experience. We’ve had the good fortune of working with several owners for 20 and 30 years.”
Each year, Realstar Hospitality recognizes the exceptional accomplishments of its hotels and hotel teams through the Days Inn – Canada Awards of Recognition and the Chairman’s Award, for example. In 2021, there were 33 Chairman’s Award honourees that continue to meet the highest quality and service level.
The relationship goes both ways. This year, the Days Inn and Motel 6 brands were recipients of the Canadian Franchise Association’s (CFA) Franchisees’ Choice Designation for the second-consecutive year where franchisees had the opportunity to evaluate Realstar Hospitality in key areas of the franchise business model.
“The ongoing support and dedication we receive from all departments at Realstar Hospitality is remarkable,” says Justin Schinkel, owner of Motel 6 in Headingley/Winnipeg West, Man. “The corporate team understands that each owner is different and each hotel is unique. From marketing to sales, operations to distribution, the team at Realstar Hospitality is devoted to working with us to ensure we attract our target customers and run a successful business.”
“Always accessible and thoroughly involved, the team at Realstar Hospitality is committed to helping us succeed and provide assistance when needed,” says Candace Webster, owner of Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham in Lindsay, Ont. “Their attention to detail and level to service is unmatched.”
Realstar Hospitality’s recognition from CFA earlier this year and now Hotelier has re-ignited its passion for hospitality and its people. “We’re motivated to work harder, more carefully and execute better than ever before,” says Prince. “It’s a nice challenge for us to maintain the trajectory that we’re on.”
Prince says his entire team is thankful to know their efforts are appreciated by their franchise family. “It’s the work and leadership from our franchisees that makes us a great company in Canada,” says Prince. “We’re looking for franchisees who are engaged hoteliers, who understand our brands, their positioning, mission and our style. We strive to make every hotel as profitable as it can be. We listen to what our franchisees are looking for and help provide the ultimate experience for each brand to drive owner and guest satisfaction and bottom line.”
BY NICOLE DI TOMASSO | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANTHONY D’ELIA