“We’re renovating our Comfort Inns because it’s the right thing to do for our guests, hotel teams and assets,” InnVest senior vice-president of asset management Jeff Hyslop told RENX. “We’re excited to invest in this portfolio, to help us ensure an enhanced competitive position for the foreseeable future.”
The renovation rollout is beginning with a prototype in Winnipeg, which is expected to be completed in early 2020, followed by the remaining 52 properties.
InnVest will focus on strategic locations in the Southern Ontario, Ottawa and Montreal areas, and has selected six hotels in Waterloo, Cambridge, Kanata, Ottawa East, Boucherville and Brossard for the second wave of revitalizations.
Hyslop said the remainder will be done while considering “regional efficiencies from a contractor and rollout perspective.”
He expects all the renovations should be completed by 2022.
Renovations and sustainability initiatives
The renovations will include new lobbies, expanded breakfast rooms and an elevated experience in all 4,127 guestrooms with new décors, updated bathrooms, larger televisions and enhanced Wi-Fi.
“On the curb-appeal side, it’s going to be a pretty dramatic change with modernized facades, new entrance ways, new Comfort Inn signage and investment in core infrastructure such as new roofs and paving,” said Hyslop.
InnVest is the country’s largest hotel owner.
The InnVest-owned Comfort Inns are working to reduce their environmental impact by reducing single-use plastics, introducing hydration stations and providing bulk-sized bathroom amenities for guests.
The new systems being installed in bathrooms alone are expected to divert more than 1.5 million miniature shampoo and conditioner bottles from landfills every year.
InnVest’s renovation, acquisition strategies
InnVest’s portfolio of 81 hotels represents 14 internationally recognized brands located from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador. The portfolio ranges from roadside inns to luxury urban properties and resort hotels.
“We’re routinely investing in upgrading our hotels to maintain their infrastructure and competitive positions,” said Hyslop. “This year has been a very active year, with significant renovations at our Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport and our Holiday Inn Express in North Bay.”
Hyslop said InnVest’s investment and asset management teams work collaboratively to decide how to best grow and improve the company.
“We’re focused on market dynamics and where we can attain the highest risk-adjusted returns on our investments, whether that’s through renovations or acquisitions.”
While Hyslop said InnVest’s investment team is always on the hunt for new acquisitions, its current focus is to reinvest in existing assets and expand its third-party hotel management services.
InnVest manages 68 hotels and owns most of them, which also makes it the largest operator of hotels in Canada. It plans to grow that business through more third-party management contracts.
InnVest and Choice Hotels Canada
InnVest owns a 50 per cent interest in Choice Hotels Canada, which has more than 350 properties open or under development.
Its brands include Ascend Hotel Collection, Comfort, Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, MainStay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn, which cover the upscale, mid-scale, extended stay and economy segments.
Choice has 10 new-build Comfort-brand hotels in its Canadian development pipeline through 2020. A Choice spokesperson wasn’t available for comment, but Hyslop said he’s “very pleased to see new investment into the brand.”
Canadian hotel market stabilizes
InnVest’s ownership and management portfolio gives it a unique perspective and insight into the Canadian hotel market. After about 10 years of revenue per available room growth, Hyslop said things have stabilized this year.
“It’s an important time for us to focus on our portfolio’s competitive position to make sure we’re maximizing all of our opportunities in our markets. With market stabilization, there’s greater emphasis placed on efficiencies to protect our margins.”
This stabilization has taken place in most hotel categories aside from the resort sector, which Hyslop said will continue to post growth this year — most notably in Alberta.
Hotels in Montreal and British Columbia have also generally outperformed the market this year, while revenues in most other regions have been flat or down a bit.
“We saw a slowdown in group business in a lot of major markets and I’d say group was the largest decline,” said Hyslop. “But, we saw softness in basically all segments.”