The ups and downs of recent months may have slowed down development efforts in some regions, but operators haven’t been shying away from introducing new concepts to the market. Many new projects launched over the past year are targeting a growing customer base seeking more upscale experiences that hold a distinct appeal outside the cookie-cutter norm.

Here is a look at some recently introduced concepts across Canada that are setting themselves up for success in 2022 and beyond.

Signature Styles
Over the past year, Marriott did not let the pandemic halt expansion plans for its Autograph Collection portfolio in Canada. December 2021 for example, marked the launch of the Muir Hotel in Halifax, a new-build property located in the heart of the city’s coveted waterfront location.

“We always wanted to offer a distinct hospitality experience for Haligonians and guests coming to town,” says Eugénie Jason, general manager. “Some travel restrictions led to construction delays, but that part is now behind us.”

The guest profile runs the gamut from corporate to leisure, and international to local travellers. “It can cater to families travelling over weekends or business travellers, or couples enjoying a staycation on the waterfront,” she says.

The hotel’s design, inspired by Maritime-Canada themes, complements the district, which includes luxury residences, office spaces, upscale restaurants and more than 75,000 sq. ft. of public spaces.

Despite the instability that COVID-19 has brought to the industry, Jason believes there was no better time than December 2021 to launch their brand. “With new variants every other month, at some point you just have to put your toe in the water. This is a good time for us to ramp up and be ready for what we hope will be a busy summer season.”

Humaniti Hotel in Montreal, another Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, opened in June 2021. Located at the intersection of Old Montreal and St. Catherine Street, the 193-room boutique hotel is one of the first to open in Canada since the start of the pandemic, says general manager Mathieu Duguay. “We appeal to the individualist traveller, who prefers the diverse, one-of-a-kind experiences that independent hotels offer.”

Features include a ground-floor boulangerie, high-end supermarket, restaurants and lounges, rooftop pool, state-of-the-art fitness facilities and a vibrant art collection by local artists that starts on the street and ends in the guestrooms. Duguay likes to describe Humaniti as “a city within a building that draws visitors that share the creative spirit.”

As for opening during the pandemic, it’s about instilling hope for the future of the industry, he says. “The entire industry has been heavily impacted by COVID, but we see the opening as an important symbol of confident optimism for the future of Canadian tourism.”

This year, Accor introduced its first MGallery Hotel Collection property in the Canadian market with the acquisition and refurbishment of the Hotel Belmont in Vancouver. The five-storey, 82-room ultra-premium heritage boutique hotel located on Granville Street, is now part of a global network of more than 100 MGallery properties around the world.

“It was important to bring the brand to Canada, which is Accor’s home in North & Central America,” says Anatoly Kondratenko, VP, Development, Accor North & Central America, in Toronto.

The Hotel Belmont is just the first step in the MGallery strategy for Canada, he adds. “Our aim is to have 10 MGallery hotels in Canada by 2026.”

Toronto saw a new upscale offering with the opening of the independent King Blue Hotel in the fall of 2021. It’s been described as a contemporary luxury boutique hotel inspired by Toronto’s Entertainment District.

“Our front façade was built from the original six stories of the Canadian Westinghouse Company Building that date back to 1917,” says Robert Pratt, president, Sandman and Sutton Place Hotels in Vancouver.

“Looking into the rear-view mirror, with four waves of COVID-19 behind us and still managing the uncertainty associated with new variants, what we have created is a boutique-style hotel with a proud and unique style that perfectly complements its new
neighbourhood,” he says.

Beyond the Borders
Outside of Canada, the past year has seen new brand launches that will be making their way to Canada sometime in the future.

Hilton is making its play for the upscale traveller with the launch of a new Tempo brand, which will be introduced to Canada soon, says global brand head, Kevin Morgan, Fairfax County, Va. “We’re looking at bringing Tempo to Toronto, Montreal and Calgary, among other locations within the next two to three years.”

Morgan describes Tempo as “an elevated and approachable lifestyle brand that sits in the middle — above Hilton Garden Inn and below Canopy. The key audience is the rising class of modern achievers who don’t want boring and banal anymore or staying at cookie-cutter properties. They’ve reached a point in their career where they’ve received a few promotions and can afford to stay at a higher-end hotel centered on wellness, mindfulness and sustainability.”

While COVID-19 delayed the project, Morgan sees it as a plus in some ways. “That extra time gave us the chance to go back and sharpen our pencils and make sure we would hit the mark 100 per cent. We looked back at everything, including the furniture, to find ways to improve our product.”

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ new Registry Collection Hotels concept is specifically focused on the luxury segment. “The brand fills an important space at the upper end of our portfolio, allowing us to provide support to those who meet the highest standards of luxury service and accommodations,” says Chip Ohlsson, EVP, Chief Development Officer, North America, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Registry Collection Hotels, Parsippany, N.J.

He notes that a noteworthy outcome of the pandemic was a strong increase in demand for leisure travel just ahead of the 2021 summer travel season, making the launch of the brand all the more timely. “In this new, remote, work-from-anywhere world, we saw a trend of ‘longer long weekends,’ with Thursday and Sunday night occupancy climbing to record highs last quarter.”

The pandemic has not only opened potential new markets, but it is also transforming the entire guest experience, says Jason. “Whatever we are seeing in terms of change and service in luxury hotels is pretty much going to be the new norm, both in the way rooms are serviced and the equipment we provide, such as mobile check-in and keys.”

But one important aspect will continue, she adds. “The human connection will always remain.”



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