Canadian Hotel Investment Conference (CHIC) 2024 Event

TORONTO — The hotel industry gathered last week at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle for the annual Canadian Hotel Investment Conference (CHIC).

Carrie Russell, senior managing partner at HVS kicked things off with her session, Speed Data, which looked at hotel operational and financial performance across the country, highlighted which markets are strong and providing opportunity and how they differ from those markets failing to thrive, as well as which expense lines continue to compress profitability. 

Other morning sessions included a panel of experts discussing the challenges involved in breaking ground during market turmoil, and how the skilled advice of the brands and creative, forward-thinking architects and designers help bring these concepts to life; and a discussion about how best to deploy your capital as opportunities open up in office conversions, a slowing condo market and vacant land availability.

The highlight of the day came just before lunch when David Marriott, Chairman of the Board at Marriott International, Inc., took the stage for a Fireside Chat with journalist Amanda Lang. Marriott, who is the third generation to lead the hotel company, spoke to the organization’s culture, which dates back to his grandparent’s root-beer stand in Washington D.C.

“They opened that root-beer stand on the philosophy of if you take good care of your associates, your associates will take good care of the customer and the customer will come back again and again,” said Marriott.  “And they always put their people first; they believed in opportunity and growth from within; and established a culture and core values very early on.”

Those core values, he said, are still present today in Marriott International’s five pillars. “The first is to put people first, the second is to pursue excellence, the third is to embrace change, the fourth is to serve our community and the fifth is to act with integrity,” said Marriott, adding those core values have “been part of who we are for 97 years. My grandparents believed it was always important to give back to the communities where you worked and my grandfather believed that his word was the only thing that he really had. But putting people first is really at the forefront of it and this is a people industry, as all of you know.”

The conversation also included Marriott’s insight into building the ultimate customer experience, maintaining brand standards in a changing market and trends in the hotel industry.

Following this session, the 2024 CHIC Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Don Cleary, former president of Marriott Hotels of Canada.

“From day one, everybody in this room welcomed me, as an American coming up across the border,” said Cleary when accepting the award. “At the end of the day, all of us are so lucky to work in this industry. What we’re doing is creating livelihoods and careers for the many people that work in our own hotels, and creating memories and experiences and special occasions for the guests that come in and how great is that? And I just consider myself lucky to have been there. I leave a bunch of friends in this room, but I’ll be around.”

Afternoon sessions covered a range of topics, from a rundown of key investment highlights from 2023 and the first few months of 2024, an update from the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC), a deep dive into the impact of asset valuations on your capital stack and an expert panel discussing perspectives and opinions on what’s in store for Canada’s economy.


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