TORONTO — With less than three months left in the year, Choice Hotels Canada held its annual fall conference late last week at the Hilton Toronto Airport hotel, attracting strong attendance from its franchise community.

Speaking to a room full of franchisees and developers on the second day of the two-day conference, Brian Leon, managing director, Franchise Growth and Administration, hosted a Franchise Development lunch, giving those in attendance a chance to network with the Choice development team and hear from a panel of leading experts about the hotel market. The panel included Alam Pirani, Colliers International; Erin O’Brien from PKF Consulting and Ian Ricci from GE Capital. According to O’Brien the hotel industry is expected to be four per cent ahead in 2012 than 2007. “The bottom line is expected to improve by seven per cent next year,” said O’Brien. “If the industry can get better at ADR, they’ll fare even better.”

Welcoming franchisees to the lunch, Leon alluded to the economically challenging year by quoting Winston Churchill. “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” As the country with the second-highest number of Choice properties in the system (the U.S. is number 1) Choice has had a fruitful year, opening its milestone 300th property. There are now 301 units dotting the Canadian landscape, producing $460 million in sales revenue. An additional 20 properties are currently under development. Since 2010, the company has added 15 new hotels that will generate $19 million in gross room revenue.

“We’re outshining other brands,” boasted Leon. “We’re doing more new builds than ever before — 25 per cent of our units in the past three years have been new builds.” And, to ensure the brand puts its best face forward, 10 hotels were terminated in the past year after failing to live up to chain standards.

That said, while most companies scaled back in recent years, opting to expend more costs, Leon pointed to new programs, including the creation of a Revenue Optimization program; the Choice Rocs, program, which allows companies to streamline RFP for hotels and the strengthening of its Guest Loyalty program. It’s all helped the brand meet its vision of being “recognized and respected as Canada’s leading hotel franchise system.”

Among the company’s other initiatives, Choice introduced Sleep Inn’s new prototype to the market two years ago, featuring an upgraded attractive and modern interior. “Sleep is well established in the U.S.,” said Leon, of the brand that has two units in Canada. “Choice is also redefining the Comfort Brand at the top of the mid-market. “We’re providing a little bit more space in rooms for a couch and seating area,” he said. And, in an effort to expand its social responsibility, the company launched the Choice Hotels Canada Foundation, a new initiative that unites the franchise community and its corporate team in a common philanthropic cause — raising funds for special initiatives to support important charities in Canada and around the world.


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