Palm Holdings is converting two of its Canadian hotels to the Marriott brand just in time for what should be a record year for the hotel industry, says Gordon Chow, Palm's chief operating officer, North America.
On April 21, Palm Holdings opened the renovated Courtyard by Marriott Kitchener, a 172-room hotel that was formerly a Radisson property. And in late June it’s opening a 105-room Marriott Residence Inn in Laval, Que., in what was formerly a Quality Suites.
“In most markets, this year will be a record year,” says the Toronto-based Chow. “People are travelling because there was so much pent-up demand. We saw that last summer – most of our hotels broke previous records, and not just for 2019, 2018 (or) 2017. People wanted to travel. They wanted to visit family and friends that they hadn’t seen in two years or more.”
Palm Holdings has more than 20 locations under ownership and management in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The company’s hotel portfolio has grown from more than 2,200 hotel rooms in 2019 to 3,070 today.
Marriott Kitchener fully renovated
Chow says the 12-storey Courtyard by Marriott Kitchener at 2960 King St. was completely renovated. He did not disclose the renovation costs.
“We took everything right down to the concrete. Every room was redone, except for the mechanical room.”
Parts of the hotel, which was built around 1990, were closed during the renovation but the hotel stayed open.
“There was a gap in the premier hotel stay market in the Kitchener region,” Chow says. “Courtyard by Marriott is a great brand for travellers, business travel and families."
Chow says Marriott is the largest hotel company in the world and “the brand is going to do well.”
Palm Holdings has owned the hotel for five years and had planned to do the conversion earlier, but COVID slowed everything down.
“There was no supply chain, no trades working. It was a very joyous day when we finally welcomed the first guests into the hotel.”
Chow says the Courtyard by Marriott Kitchener “is ramping up very quickly because of its location” close to Highways 8 and 401 and the Waterloo airport.
One of the demand generators, he says, is the Charcoal Steakhouse which is connected to the hotel. The 25,000-square-foot restaurant has been around for 60 years and is a Kitchener icon.
LavaI Marriott a higher-end brand
In Laval, the Residence Inn by Marriott is replacing a Quality Hotel.
The hotel, located off Highway 15 (Laurentian Autoroute) and near the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels, is being fully renovated and is getting a new lobby.
As a plus, every room is 500 square feet, which is large for a hotel room, he says.
By renovating the hotel and converting it into a Marriott, Palm Holdings is recognizing “what the potential of that hotel could be if we reposition it and rebrand it.”
Chow notes the company likes to buy underperforming assets, convert them and manage them hands-on, with a long-term investment horizon.
Its aim is to meet and hopefully surpass hotel brand standards, “so that we can increase the value of the property not for the purpose of selling, but for the purpose of refinancing and (doing) upgrades and renovations.”
Unlike Quality Inn, Residence Inn is a higher-end extended stay product.
Chow does not know how much higher room rates will be under the new banner, but depending on market demand, rates could be 20 to 30 per cent higher.
Palm "always looking" to expand
Most of Palm Holdings’ Canadian hotels are in Eastern Canada but there is one hotel in Western Canada, the Westin Edmonton in Edmonton.
Chow says the company is “always looking” at expanding: “We’ve looked in Winnipeg, we’ve looked in Calgary, we’re always looking in Ontario.
"We’re looking in Nova Scotia because we have a hotel in Halifax. It makes sense if you have a hotel in Halifax to have two or three.”
In Canada, the company also has hotels under the Quality Suites, Quality Hotel, Motel 6, Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn & Suites banners.
Its U.S. hotels are all in Florida, in Miami, Orlando and Naples.
The company also renovated the Courtyard by Marriott Waterloo St. Jacobs last year and a soft renovation will be carried out this fall on the Towneplace Suites by Marriott in London, Ont.
Family-run Palm Holdings offers a range of services including Palm Hospitality, an international hotel management and consultancy company; Palm Construction, specializing in capital improvements, new developments and retrofits for hotels; and Palm Ventures, an equity services firm dedicated to acquiring and holding hospitality-related real estate.
The family business began, buying, renovating and reselling hotels in the U.K. before expanding into Canada in 1997. The company entered the Florida market in 2013.