OTTAWA — More than 250 franchisees rallied at The National Hotel & Suites in Ottawa this week to attend the Choice Hotels Canada annual fall conference, where the group learned of new developments and celebrated outstanding franchisees.
Recent market conditions, including the growth in overseas tourism and overnight visits to Canada, have propelled the Choice Canada brand to success, the group learned in the opening session of the conference. The industry is on an upswing, said Tim Oldfield, managing director of Franchise Performance for Choice Hotels Canada. “Supply and demand is in check today, and, with the market absorbing supply, we are seeing the opportunity to push rate higher.”
By the end of 2013, Choice will have added 14 new properties in Canada, while launching capital improvement plans to revamp existing properties, which include $65 million towards the Comfort brand, and $20 million towards Quality, Clarion and Econo Lodge. “[These are] high-impact renovations, squarely aimed at taking back share from those who have been stealing it from us,” described Oldfield, of the improvement plans. “Now, it’s still early days, but we’re truly encouraged by what we’re seeing, including increases in occupancy, rate and guest-satisfaction scores.”
Marketing was a hot topic at the conference, where execs showcased new areas to capture market share. Moving beyond age, sex and income tiers, Choice is targeting consumers based on behaviour. For example, after identifying sports fans as a market, the team has been advertising in sports-focused TV stations such as TSN and Réseau des sports (RDS), and, more recently, Sportsnet. But, TV advertising aside, the 2014 marketing plan will see a push towards digital spaces.
During the conference, attendees were treated to breakout sessions that ranged from tips and tricks in human resources (such as approaching the hiring relationship like a hotel-guest relationship); regional marketing, which honed in on niche markets such as bicycle enthusiasts, construction crews and LGBT, as well as time management skills and social media. At an evening reception, guests gathered at the Canadian Museum of Nature to celebrate the Awards for Property Excellence, which celebrated seven national winners, including the Chateau Saint John Hotel & Suites, St. John, N.B (Highest Guest Satisfaction); Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, Moncton, (Most Improved Room Condition); and Comfort Inn Toronto Airport, Mississauga, Ont. (Highest Choice Privileges Enroller Rate).
Oldfield is confident the next year for Choice will bring many new developments, such as adding more dedicated breakfast areas to properties, a possible expansion of its electric car-charging stations program, and the growth of its Quality brand across Canada in Ontario and in Western provinces; the goal is to have up to 350 units open or under development in the next couple of years. “We see a lot of tertiary market possibilities,” he adds. “The part we’re most excited about beyond unit growth is growth of our existing franchisees’ business as well. We’re continuing to improve reservation contribution that will ensure [properties] have a steady supply of guests who want to return. Bundle that together, and you’ve got Choice from where we are in 2013” — with a great strategy for the future.