By Danielle Schalk
Over the last year, Germain Hotels has been re-establishing its focus on growth and development.
The Quebec-based company owns and operates boutique hotels across Canada under the Le Germain, Alt and Escad banners. And, the company’s vice-president, Operations, Hugo Germain, notes that with the July opening of Alt Hotel Calgary University District, Germain Hotels officially marked its return to active pursuit of expansion throughout Canada.
“We had put that hotel on hold in June of 2020,” he explains. “We were extremely happy to resume construction in March of 2022. For us, this hotel meant a sign of being back in a positive [operating] environment.”
The hotel — the company’s 19th — also marked a number of other milestones for the company, as its first university hotel and Germain Hotels’ first LEED-certified property.
Being part of Calgary’s University District, which is the first community in Alberta and the largest in Canadian history certified LEED-ND Platinum (recognizing sustainable neighbourhood development), offered an exciting challenge for the team. This is because all developments within the neighbourhood are required to meet LEED’s Silver-certification level.
“The exercise was interesting, because we found out that we were not very far off,” shares Germain. “We were only a couple of points away from being LEED [certifiable] if you compare the previous projects we have done elsewhere.”
Beyond development, Marie Pier Germain, vice-president, Sales and Marketing, points to “see[ing] a lot of our employees come back” as an important highlight of the past year. “To see people come back to the industry and feel their engagement and love for the work that they do has really been heartwarming,” she says.
Germain Hotels has also been exploring new ways to integrate technology into its operations in order to enhance the guest experience. “Right now, this is one thing that we’re looking at for various aspects of our business,” Hugo explains, pointing to room-service orders and other transactional process, such as check-ins, as key areas the company is looking at.
“Our people, our team members, are what’s most important in our business,” says Marie Pier Germain, “and we want to put them forward [to] create connections with our guests. So, by removing the transactional aspect, we’re really focusing on the human aspect — that’s what motivates our decisions when it comes to technology.”
Central to the company and its culture/values is its people, and because of that, the company has been focused on “giving them the appropriate tools so that every aspect of the business is not only back to where it was prior to the pandemic, but we actually go further and use our experience in order to provide the best guest experience in our hotels across the country,” Hugo explains.
Maintaining and leveraging the company’s reputation and brand awareness is core to Germain Hotels’ aspirations of continued expansion. On this front, Hugo Germain points to opportunities being explored within the Greater Toronto Area and Greater Montreal, as well as a desire to see the company expand its presence to Vancouver and B.C.
And, he’s confident the company is in a great position to secure new opportunities. “Right now, when we come into a context where we have an opportunity for development…there’s a menu of different options that we can [offer to] developers,” Hugo says, noting the company’s multiple brands and growing wealth of experience. “We’re basically a one-stop-shop. We own, we develop [and] we manage our hotels.”
However, the first project on Germain Hotels’ agenda is another development that had been put on hold — a terminal hotel at the Ottawa international Airport. As Hugo explains, prior to the pandemic, the company had been very close to starting construction on the project, which was originally announced in January 2019. “We are currently working really hard toward resuming the development process and being able to start that project,” he shares.
And, once Alt Hotel Ottawa Airport is underway, Germain Hotels will be one step closer to reaching its milestone of 20 properties across Canada.