By Nicole Di Tomasso
From modest beginnings to a multi-faceted organization, Sunray Group has emerged as a shining beacon of success in Canada’s hospitality-and-tourism industry. With a legacy spanning nearly two decades, the company has consistently pushed the boundaries at its conversion properties to deliver above-average returns, recognized its team members for their hard work and offered support to various charitable initiatives.
Founded in 2006, Toronto-based Sunray Group — Hotelier’s Company of the Year — is a family-owned corporation specializing in hospitality and development. The group is successfully building an ever-increasing portfolio of award-winning brands, which include partnerships with Marriott International, Hilton, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Choice Hotels, Best Western and Wyndham. Currently, the company owns and operates 70 properties in excess of 10,000 rooms and employs 8,850 people in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Texas, with a number of ongoing developments at any given time.
Led by Chairman and CEO Rattan “Ray” Gupta, Sunray Group’s journey of growth and transformation traces back to the strategic acquisition of under-utilized assets with significant re-positioning opportunities across major highways and urban centres, ensuring that each addition to its portfolio aligns with its mission and values.
“We began acquiring properties along Highway 401 because it was more beneficial for my father and myself to visit/oversee the properties,” says Sandeep Gupta, president, Sunray Group of Hotels. “As the company started to expand, we looked for under-utilized properties because the acquisition costs were significantly cheaper and during the re-branding process, some business revenue is
Over the years, Sunray Group has successfully extended its footprint across Canada. In 2020, the company acquired 100-per-cent ownership interest in Owens Hospitality Group Ltd., providing a platform for Sunray Group in Western Canada. The hospitality development and administration company had ownership interest in three Saskatchewan hotels, including the Best Western Plus Airport Inn & Suites Saskatoon, TownePlace Inn & Suites by Marriott Saskatoon and Best Western Plus Eastgate Inn & Suites Regina.
Overall, this forward-thinking tactic has allowed Sunray Group to achieve steady revenue growth for its hotel portfolio. The company reported operating revenues of $350 million in 2022, up from $258 in 2021. During the pandemic, Gupta says the company purchased approximately 18 properties and, in the last year alone, added 10 properties to its hotel portfolio.
More recently, Gupta says the company has tweaked its strategy, setting its eyes “properties with excess land for additional developments.” In 2019, Sunray acquired Hockley Valley Resort and Adamo Estate Winery. The sale of the approximately 300-acre Orangeville, Ont.-property was facilitated by Colliers International Hotels on behalf of Hockley Valley Resort Limited and LJP Corporation.
The year-round resort features 104 guestrooms and suites, 16,100 sq. ft. of meeting space, three farm-to-table restaurants with two patios and four additional food-and-beverage (F&B) outlets. The property also features attractions, such as an 18-hole championship golf course, 15-run ski and snowboarding hill and 8,000-sq.-ft. destination spa. The company has partnered with CHIL Interior Design for the multi-million-dollar project and signed with Marriott to convert the resort to a soft brand under its Tribute Portfolio.
“We’re going through the design stages right now, with all the F&B components, ski, golf, guestrooms, public areas and meeting space, as well as the winery for a major revamp and re-positioning of the property,” says Gupta. “There’s a lot of moving parts and we’re hoping it will be one of Ontario’s best resorts when the conversion is completed.”
Additionally, Gupta says the company acquired a seven-acre property in Toronto East for a major re-development, which will include a new hotel, office space, condos, rental units and a seniors’ residence.. “A lot of our new properties are becoming more dual-purpose or tri-purpose for residential developments or retirement homes, which is another major part of our business,” he says.
A significant factor behind Sunray Group’s success is its people-centric approach, says Gupta, adding that care was key to employee retention in the face of the pandemic.
“Every [organization] measures success differently. Retaining our staff during the pandemic was a great success,” says Gupta. “We never shut down our offices and we took every necessary precaution to ensure the health-and-safety of our staff. We continue to motivate our team which, in turn, motivates us.”
The company’s success is not only measured by its financial achievements, but also by its engagement with communities and partners to drive positive change. In fact, the Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI) recently named Ray Gupta as a winner of its Hall of Fame Awards, which recognize long-term hospitality leaders. Known for multiple philanthropic endeavours, Ray Gupta is co-founder and executive board member of Positive and Progressive Educational Support Canada, a charitable organization that provides funding for young girls’ education in rural communities in India. Furthermore, The Sunray Foundation, launched in 2017, recognizes the need to lend a hand to employees in the hospitality industry who may have suffered hardships along the way.
In the last year, Sunray has donated more than $1 million to organizations such as the Scarborough Health Care Network, Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, Ont., Habitat for Humanity, Sleeping Children around the World, Hindu Cultural Society and Aga Khan Foundation, among others.
Looking ahead, Gupta says that while acquisition opportunities are starting to dry up, especially within Ontario, there’s still a lot of opportunity throughout the rest of Canada. As sunrays symbolize a new day and the promise of warmth and light, Sunray Group will continue to illuminate a path forward for success.
“This Pinnacle Award cements the organization’s hard work over the years and motivates us to continue to drive for success,” says Gupta. “We’ve grown tremendously and evolved in so many ways, and that’s something we’re all proud of.”