STAY Magazine ... Vol. 4, Issue3

Page 41

In Conversation with David Marriott on Legacy, Leadership, and Innovation

Latest advancements, changing consumer preferences, economic + environmental considerations

Inside Toronto Westin Harbour Castle’s 50th-anniversary multi-million dollar makeover

The state of labour in the Canadian hotel industry Unlocking the power of strategic brand partnerships

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Changing Consumer Preferences 5 EDITOR’S NOTE Welcome to the Summer 2024 issue of STAY Magazine 7 HOTEL ASSOCIATION OF CANADA A look back at a successful year for the hotel industry 12 REPRESENTATION MATTERS The Rainbow Connection 16 SUSTAINABILITY Sustainable hotels, back of house 21 THERMAL NETWORKS The missing infrastructure we need to help enable carbon-free heating 25 LEGACY OWNERS In conversation with David Marriott on legacy, leadership, and innovation ON THE COVER David Marriott Chairman of the Board of Marriott International, Inc. Photographer: Stacey Newman CONTENTS SUMMER 2024 32 HOSPITALITY TRAILBLAZERS Pride and prejudice with industry veteran, Christopher Ashby 35 PIP STORY Inside Toronto Westin Harbour Castle’s 50th-anniversary multi-million-dollar makeover 41 WORKFORCE Many experts say that the overall state of the tourism workforce has improved, but to what degree? 48 BETTER BUSINESS PRACTICES Unlocking the power of strategic brand partnerships 54 SNAPSHOT 2024 hotel industry innovation & trends 54 12 25 STAYMAGAZINE.CA 3


Volume 4 Issue 3


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STAY is published four times per year by Big Picture New Media (BPNM), a subsidiary of Big Picture Conferences. For 27 years, Big Picture has been hosting the Canadian Hotel Investment Conference (CHIC) and other go-to conferences and events for Canada’s hotel industry. Subscription price: $110 per year, most single issues $18.95. For subscription Inquiries, please visit


Robin McLuskie Managing Director, Hotels, Colliers Hotels

Brian Leon President, Choice Hotels Canada

Brian Flood EVP and Practice Leader, Hospitality and Gaming, Cushman & Wakefield

Scott Richer VP, Real Estate and Development (Canada), Hyatt Hotels

Ed Khediguian Senior VP, CWB Franchise Finance

Bill Stone President, Knightstone Hotel Group

Gunjan Kahlon VP Franchise Sales and Development, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Judy Sparkes-Giannou Co-Owner, Clayton Hospitality Inc.

Deborah Borotsik Senior VP, Beechwood Real Estate Advisors

Alan Perlis President & CEO, Knightstone Capital Management and CEO, Knightstone Hotel Group

Alnoor Gulamani President, Bayview Hospitality Inc.

Christina Poon General Manager, Hotel W New York – Union Square

Phil Thompson Business Lawyer, Thompson Transaction Law

Sandra Kanegawa Owner, Heritage Inn Portfolio, X-Dream

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We kick off this issue with a captivating interview with David Marriott of Marriott International, who talks about the biggest ideas that are shaping the future of the industry. The anecdotes he shares are a window to the Marriott value propositions of guest satisfaction and operational excellence in a rapidly evolving industry landscape.

In our ongoing coverage of sustainability, the second part of our Sustainable Hotels Series delves deep into the operational practices that are setting new standards.

Technology continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the hotel experience, and our features on thermal networks and hotel industry innovations provide a comprehensive look at how advancements are enhancing efficiency and guest engagement. From AI-driven customer service enhancements to the integration of thermal networks for sustainable heating, these technologies promise to redefine hotel operations.

An enlightening piece on strategic brand partnerships illustrates the power of collaboration in elevating guest experiences and driving business success. We explore how aligning with brands can create unique value propositions and distinguish hotel offerings in a competitive market.

Our feature on the Canadian hotel industry's state of labour highlights the challenges and triumphs as hotels navigate post-pandemic recovery. We review the strategies hotels are employing to attract and retain top talent while ensuring the service excellence that guests expect.

A heartwarming story from Christopher Ashby, a veteran in the hotel marketing arena, discusses the nuanced shifts in hospitality and the increased inclusivity within the industry. Ashby’s journey underscores a broader narrative of progress and the breaking down of barriers within the sector.

Furthermore, we’re telling a PIP story about the grand 50th-anniversary makeover of Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle, a testament to the enduring appeal and continual rejuvenation of Canada’s premier hotels.

Each article in this issue not only informs but also inspires. Whether you are a hotelier, a stakeholder in the tourism industry, or simply a devotee of travel and hospitality, as we look ahead, the landscape of the hotel industry continues to evolve.

Join us in exploring these dynamic shifts that are not just shaping Canadian hospitality but also setting trends globally.

Thank you for your continued support of STAY Magazine. Enjoy the read!



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The hotel industry proved its resilience as it successfully shifted from postpandemic survival to stability and growth. But there are still barriers preventing us from maximizing our potential. Last year our members identified three priority areas: federal government investment, workforce and, for the first time, housing. Since then we’ve been hard at work securing both industry and government wins on these important issues.

$50m 3-YEAR


After months of consultation with top industry stakeholders including HAC, the government launched the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy. With $158M in new spending, this was the largest investment ever made by the Canadian government in tourism and an important step towards rebuilding the tourism sector.

One of HAC’s key recommendations was a business events bid fund to boost Canada’s lagging meetings and conventions business. Delivering on this recommendation, the federal investment included $50 million over three years to launch the International Convention Attraction Fund (ICAF). Administered by Destination Canada, the fund can be accessed by destinations bidding on major international conventions, conferences, and events. Destination Canada estimates this investment could generate $174 million for the Canadian economy, with hotels seeing significant benefits.

The government also provided $108M to the Regional Development Agencies over three years to support regional tourism product.

$158M HISTORIC INVESTMENT 2023 2017 2019 2011
Growth Strategy


Housing emerged last year for the first time as a key priority for HAC members. Over 62 per cent of members identified access to housing for staff as a barrier to attracting and retaining employees. While the housing crisis is not unique to the hotel sector, the hotel sector can be part of the solution. There are two things we can do: protect the existing housing stock by reining in commercial short-term rentals and creating new stock through mixed-use projects.


Commercial short-term rental operators are already illegal in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but enforcement has been weak in most regions. Last fall, the HAC team secured significant action from the Federal Government to crack down on illegal commercial operators, policies that will move tens of thousands of units off platforms like Airbnb and returning them to the rental market.

In the Fall Economic Statement, the government announced that those who are non-compliant with municipal regulations will be unable to claim expenses, such as interest and property taxes, against rental income. In addition, a $50 million fund was established over three years to enable regulators to pursue those who are violating local/ provincial laws. The impact of these two policies will be significant, likely resulting in a sizable return of affordable housing stock back to the long-term market – and obviously an increase in occupancy for hotels. As media coverage across the country shows, these announcements are already having a chilling effect on the STR market.

The federal measures build on important wins in British Columbia and Manitoba, secured by provincial hotel associations in partnership with HAC.

Last year, the BC Government passed some of the toughest regulations in the country, setting a new standard for STR legislation by restricting these rentals to principal residences (excluding rural and resort areas). Other key features of the new legislation include platform data sharing and removal of illegal listings, a provincial registry for hosts, increased fines and a new Enforcement unit.

In Manitoba, we assisted the Manitoba Hotel Association in achieving a principal residence

62% of HAC members said that housing is a top recruitment issue.
HAC Member Survey (Fall 2023)

requirement in Winnipeg, a first for the province. This win signals progress in the prairies and will help build momentum for further regulations across the region.


Hotels can be part of the housing solution for all Canadians. Hotels today are building mixed-use facilities (hotels with integrated residential rentals open to all Canadians), but high interest rates, development fees and approvals are limiting many projects from moving forward. Hoteliers are also looking to build affordable staff accommodations and are facing similar barriers for these projects.

HAC is advocating to expand existing housing incentive programs to include hotel/ residential rental projects. For example, simply lowering the threshold for the CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance program from 70 per cent residential floor space down to 50 per cent, would support many more hotel/residential projects. For projects with less than 50 per cent residential floor space, HAC is advocating for proportional access to the program based on percentage.

HAC was also pleased to clarify with the Department of Finance that the new GST Rental Rebate would apply to the residential portion of mixed-use projects.


During the first two months of the pandemic, we lost one million tourism workers. This massive hit to our workforce amplified the demographic and reputational challenges already faced by our industry pre-COVID.

And while the workforce has evolved post-pandemic, so too has the hotel industry.

Hoteliers have made significant efforts to attract and retain workers, including increased pay, enhanced benefits, and adoption of new, flexible ways of working.

8 SUMMER 2024

But with record low unemployment, decreased interest in service jobs, a rise in remote work and a decline in birth rates in Canada, we need to be strategic and aligned to solve this problem.

Our workforce challenges need a multi-faceted approach. This is why HAC launched the Workforce Growth Strategy which involves looking at the problem both domestically and internationally.


In 2023, HAC launched its first-ever career marketing campaign. The social media campaign showcased young and diverse hotel employees talking about why they love their jobs. The campaign was a huge success. We reached seven million people with engagement scores that beat every benchmark we had for the campaign.

Through social media listening exercises conducted during the campaign, we learned more about hotel workforce conversations online:

• Hotel employee content outperforms employer or recruiter content on social media

• There is a gap online in content and conversation about the great things employers are doing.

We are building on this important work with a new campaign launching this spring.



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Spirit Ridge, Osoyoos, Canada The Unbound Collection by Hyatt Hyatt Centric Ville-Marie Montréal Quebec, Canada The Anndore House, Toronto, Canada | JdV by Hyatt Park Hyatt Toronto, Canada


With COVID relief funding from the Federal Government, HAC commissioned a cuttingedge report by Deloitte’s Future of Work team. HAC’s Hotel Workforce Action Plan reflects extensive industry consultations and the latest in global research. As part of industry consultations, HAC led regional focus groups across Canada for members to discuss and ideate key areas of focus in the report.

The action plan set the stage for our strategy by clearly defining and exploring the problem we are facing and what other challenges lie ahead. It highlighted best practices and innovative solutions from Canada and around the world. Through the lens of the talent lifecycle, members leveraged ideas on how their organizations can Attract, Recruit, Develop, Retain and Separate, to meet the needs of today’s employees, while growing culture and your bottom line.


To share key research and spark collective change, we hosted HAC’s first-ever Hotel Labour Summit in Ottawa, bringing together more than 50 industry leaders, educational institutions, government officials and settlement agencies for a results-focused strategy session. The “unconference” was a resounding success, with actionable solutions arising from brilliant brainstorming around each table.


While the industry is making strides in growing its domestic workforce, there are simply not enough Canadians to fill the available jobs in the industry, especially in positions that require a high school diploma or less. For these positions, stable access to the pool of international workers is critical.

Last year, HAC’s workforce wins unlocked more than 110,000 new positions for hospitality and tourism workers through various immigration channels.


In addition to critical COVID-specific changes to the TFW program that helped get our industry back on its feet, HAC secured permanent policy changes that will streamline the process for our industry.

First, HAC secured a long-time industry ask: a Recognized Employer Program that makes it easier for employers with good track records to hire TFWs. Starting in January 2024, employers will automatically be considered for the pilot when they apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

HAC successfully advocated for changes to this pilot to make it work better for hotel employers. Originally the program disqualified businesses that did not have at least three positive LMIAs in the last five years. But COVID closures meant many hotels didn’t need TFWs during the pandemic. We were able to change the program to reflect these challenges and employers will now be able to use positive LMIAs dating back to 2016 to qualify.

10 SUMMER 2024



Twice as many jobs for high school education or less than Canadians to fill them.

The government also announced that spouses and dependents of TFWs will be eligible for work permits until the end of 2024, increasing the pool of workers the hotel sector can access.

International graduates were also offered extensions on work permits through the PostGraduate Work Permit program. This will allow our sector to keep workers who have already been trained in their positions for a longer period of time.

International Experience Canada was also expanded by 20 per cent. The International Experience Canada program brings almost 90,000 youth to Canada to travel and work. This helps seasonal employers fill gaps with newcomers who are passionate about travel.

Canada’s youth mobility agreement with the UK was expanded in 2024. The age limit to participate in the program has been increased from 30 to 35 years old and the work term has been increased from two to three years.

The government also removed visa requirements for known travellers from 13 countries (including the Philippines and Morrocco) that can now use an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) for entry into Canada. This will make it easier for employers to access TFWs from these countries, as these workers will no longer require a travel visa.


Pressure has increased for the government to taper off immigration levels and set new caps for TFWs. In light of these political barriers, HAC is also hard at work advocating to better connect new Canadians to valuable careers in the hotel sector. Whether it’s Ukrainians, Syrians or other refugees we know there are many new Canadians arriving in our communities and struggling to maximize their employment potential.

First, HAC secured the inclusion of hotels in the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) that expanded eligibility for this employer-sponsored refugee program to include low-skilled workers such as housekeepers.

HAC is also working on creating better connections between the industry and people newly arrived in Canada. Research by Deloitte for HAC’s Workforce Action Plan found that settlement agencies are not referring employable newcomers to jobs in hotels because of misconceptions around the stability of the industry and the language skills needed.

To address this issue HAC is working to revive its Destination Employment program originally funded by the Department of Immigration to help connect Syrian refugees with jobs in hotels. In addition to training employers, the program would educate settlement agencies to provide more awareness of the career opportunities available in hotels for newcomers across the country.


With such great momentum over the last year, HAC remains focused on key advocacy priorities related to housing, workforce and strategic investment in tourism.

We have also launched the next phase of the Hotel Workforce Growth Strategy which includes more collective action engagement at the annual HAC conference and continued research on the future of our workforce.

We have launched another career marketing campaign, this time featuring social media ambassadors who will share their on-the-ground perspective about what it’s really like working in a hotel through authentic point-of-view (POV) videos and day-in-the-life posts.

Our success in 2023 has continued to solidify HAC’s position as a trusted industry advisor to the government with HAC’s president Susie Grynol recognized as a Top 100 Lobbyist in Canada for the fourth year in a row. We plan to use this momentum to achieve more successful outcomes for the hospitality and tourism industry in Canada.



Once thought of as being a purely niche market, more and more accommodations are recognizing the authentic needs of LGBTQ2S+ travellers sensitive to fairness and inclusivity and taking steps to reprioritize themselves as such.

Historically, LGBTQ2S+ individuals often faced discrimination and were marginalized from mainstream society, including in the hospitality industry. Canadian laws and societal norms during much of the 20th century did not support LGBTQ2S+ rights, leading to instances where individuals could be denied service or face hostility in public spaces, including hotels.

The history of the LGBTQ2S+ community in Canada is marked by numerous milestones that reflect the ongoing struggle for rights, recognition, and equality


Decriminalization of Homosexuality

A landmark moment in Canadian history was the decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults in private through the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69. This legislative change was part of a broader liberalization of Canadian laws and reflected changing attitudes towards homosexuality.


First Gay Rights Protest in Canada

The first public demonstration for gay rights in Canada took place on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and at Robson Square in Vancouver in 1971. These protests marked the beginning of organized political activism by the gay community in Canada.

Early 1970s

Establishment of the First Gay Liberation Movements and Organizations

The early 1970s saw the formation of Canada's first gay liberation groups and organizations, such as the Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT), the Vancouver Gay Liberation Front, and others. These organizations played crucial roles in advocacy, support, and social change.

12 SUMMER 2024


Despite these challenges, LGBTQ2S+-friendly spaces began to emerge, particularly in larger cities with more vibrant LGBTQ2S+ communities, such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. These spaces weren’t always explicitly hotels at first but included bars, clubs, and bathhouses that provided safe havens for the community. Over time, some guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, and small hotels started to market themselves as welcoming to LGBTQ2S+ travellers, offering a sense of safety and community.

Significant legal and societal changes have impacted the hospitality industry’s relationship with the LGBTQ2S+ community. The decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada in 1969 was a critical turning point, followed by a series of legal advancements that culminated in the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005. These changes have led to a more open and accepting environment in many parts of the country, including in the hospitality sector.

The growth of Pride events across Canada has also played a crucial role in highlighting the importance of the LGBTQ2S+ community to the tourism industry. Major cities across Canada host annual Pride festivals that attract visitors

from around the world. This has encouraged hotels and other accommodations to become more openly supportive and inclusive, recognizing the economic and social value of the LGBTQ2S+ tourism market.

In recent years, there has been a move towards formalizing the commitment to LGBTQ2S+ inclusion through certification and training programs for hospitality staff. Organizations like Tourism Toronto and Travel Gay Canada offer programs and resources to help hotels and other tourism-related businesses understand and cater to LGBTQ2S+ travellers’ needs. These programs often include training on non-discriminatory practices, creating welcoming spaces, and marketing to LGBTQ2S+ tourists.

Even with these advancements in understanding and more visible representation in our institutions, the queer community still has concerns their straight counterparts often take for granted when travelling.

Think about it: there are over 62 countries where it remains illegal to engage in same-sex relations. In at least 13 countries homosexuality is punishable by death, and in a further nine countries, gay

Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005. This historic decision by the Canadian Parliament followed a series of court decisions across provinces that recognized the right to marriage for same-sex couples.


Inclusion of Sexual Orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act

A pivotal legislative milestone was the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected ground from discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1996. This was a significant advancement in ensuring legal protections for the LGBTQ2S+ community.


Apology to LGBTQ2S+ Community

In a historic gesture, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized to LGBTQ2S+ Canadians in the House of Commons for past statesponsored discrimination against them. This apology was accompanied by the announcement of compensation for those affected and the launch of the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act to clear the records of those convicted of consensual same-sex activities.


Ban on Conversion Therapy

Canada banned conversion therapy for minors nationwide, marking a significant step in protecting LGBTQ+ youths from practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The journey of the gay community in Canada from marginalization to recognition underscores the importance of activism, legal battles, and societal shifts in shaping a more inclusive country.

The LGBTQ2S+ community’s quest for safe spaces isn’t an outsider’s plea, it’s a booming business opportunity.”

people can face life imprisonment. Moreover, in a host of other countries, even where homosexuality is legal, many gay travellers still have to worry about verbal or physical harassment, bullying, and a host of microaggressions.

A survey commissioned by as recently as 2020, indicated that 30 per cent of LGBTQ travellers felt judged by hotel staff.

Thanks to a generally higher disposable income, the increased likelihood of owning a passport and a gradual awakening towards diversity, equity and inclusion, gay and lesbian travellers are slowly but surely being welcomed, even embraced, by accommodations eager to fortify a relationship with this powerful demographic.

Today’s LGBTQ2S+ travellers want assurances that they are entering safe and welcoming spaces that match their aesthetics and expectations.

“Every time we choose an LGBTQ2S+ welcoming hotel, we send a powerful message,” says John Tanzella, president and CEO of The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).

“We say, ‘We matter, we exist, and we deserve welcoming spaces just like everyone else.’ It’s about visibility, validation, and showing the world that our community is a force to be reckoned with in the travel industry.”

Tanzella says that the impact of supporting gay-positive hotels goes way beyond visibility.

“Choosing these hotels is an investment in our own community. These businesses often actively support LGBTQ2S+ causes, hire talent from within our community, and advocate for our rights. By supporting them, we’re investing in our collective future.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by many including JeanPhilip Dupré, general manager of Toronto’s Anndore House, a JdV by Hyatt hotel, which is located in the heart of Toronto’s “gaybourhood.”

“The Anndore House is able to provide our guests with easy access to a community that celebrates diversity and inclusion,” he says. “At our hotel, we truly value diversity and strive to create an inclusive environment for all guests. We have implemented policies and training programs that promote equality and respect, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and accepted. We actively support and participate in various LGBTQ2S+ events, such as Pride parades and fundraisers and support local organizations. By doing so, we demonstrate our genuine commitment to the community and show that we are more than just a hotel—we are a proud ally.”

While The Anndore House makes a deliberate and conscious attempt to become part of a vibrant community, other hotels found that affinity with their consumer base evolved more naturally over time.

Carlos Perez, 48, is a multi-hyphenate who triples as a designer-manager and concierge of Montreal’s Boxotel since 2022.

“Boxotel is a four-star boutique hotel built in 2016,” he says. “It began with a different vision of the hospitality industry in terms of eco-responsibility and sustainability with an emphasis on wellness (both physical and mental). Boxotel wasn’t

14 SUMMER 2024

specifically intended to be a gay traveller’s destination hotel. It happened rather organically due in part to the queerness of its team members, our proximity to Montreal’s gay village and the fact that we offer an overall experience like no other in the city.”

Boxotel’s relatively compact size, brutalist design elements and emphasis on wellness and sustainability add to the accommodation’s aesthetic. Its pied-à-terre style units boast full kitchens, luxurious washrooms, king-sized Murphy beds, and bespoke furniture that enable guests to adapt their units according to their needs, says Perez.

Not to be outdone, The Anndore House “has taken specific measures to make our hotel a welcoming space for LGBTQ2S+ guests. For example, we offer gender-neutral bathrooms, inclusive room options, and staff who are trained to provide a safe and respectful environment for all,” says Dupré.

“Being close to other LGBT-friendly businesses, and walking distance to the bars and nightlife is part of the criteria LGBTQ2S+ travellers look for,” he adds. “Guests are also looking for things to do that are off the beaten path. They want their hotel to have a personality and to offer experiences that they cannot get back home. Being a boutique hotel allows us to showcase our personality far beyond our design and our programming initiatives. Our live music, art exhibits and drag brunches are just a few examples of how we offer unique experiences to our guests by connecting and showcasing the LGBT talent that is in Toronto.”

Perhaps the most important concern for LGBTQ2S+ travellers is safety.

“Montreal is already a relatively safe city and LGBTQ2S+ travellers seem to instantly feel at home here,” says Perez. The Anndore House has gone the extra mile by implementing policies and training programs that promote equality and respect, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and accepted.

In recent years, LGBTQ2S+ associations have introduced accreditation and training programs that recognize specific accommodations as being safe and welcoming spaces for queer travellers. In Canada, The Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce offers its Rainbow Registered

program and lists over 60 accommodations on its website that meet the criteria for inclusivity.

Working globally, IGLTA launched its accreditation program in June 2023. It’s built on eight pillars, including policy, advocacy, diversity, equity, inclusivity, transparency, sensitivity and not least, community. To meet this designation hotels must successfully document fulfillment of all the criteria showcasing their dedication to creating safe environments for LGBTQ2S+ travellers.

“The LGBTQ2S+ community’s quest for safe spaces isn’t an outsider’s plea, it’s a booming business opportunity. This market rewards inclusivity with loyalty, innovation, and a competitive edge. And remember, LGBTQ2S+ travellers have families and friends who also want to support businesses that support their loved ones. Hotels that celebrate diversity attract diverse customers, strengthen their brand, and fuel positive change. It’s a win-win, shaping a brighter future for travellers and the industry alike,” says Tanzella.


→ The Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce lists over 60 accommodations that are Rainbow Registered as LGBTQ2S+ safe spaces and includes many other businesses.

→ View the list of all Canadian Rainbow Registered hotels at

→ The International Gay and Lesbian Travellers Association recently made the pages of Vanity Fair with the introduction of its accreditation program. Founded in 1983, IGLTA provides free travel resources while continuously working to promote equality and safety within LGBTQ2S+ tourism worldwide.

→ Travel Proud: Booking. com has joined forces with HospitableMe to offer a free Proud Hospitality training course as part of the Travel Proud Programme. It’s designed exclusively for partners and includes a takehome toolkit for staff training, with the goal of helping partners achieve Proud Certified status.


Carter Hammett is a Toronto-based writer, editor and social worker.

16 SUMMER 2024


Part two of STAY’s look at sustainable hotel operations. While guests notice how often linens are changed, the heavy lifting isn’t in the lobby or guest room, but back of house.

In November the Fairmont Royal York hotel received the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building – Performance Standard Certification, making it the first and only Zero Carbon Building in Canada.

Thomas Mueller, CEO of Canada Green Building Council says: “This is the only project I know of in Canada and North America where a hotel has achieved this level of performance. As to what change and solutions looks like, it’s right here at the Fairmont Royal York. The Fairmont Royal York is the future.”

Jon Love, founder and CEO of Kingsett Capital, which owns the property, says: “Five years ago the challenge was to go to zero carbon. It was a complex project. We literally have removed miles of ancient piping from this building, tapped into an entirely new energy source, and built a new electric plant in the hotel. We are so proud of the team that brought this to life and super excited to share this because if we can do this with a 94-year-old heritage railway hotel in Canada, the largest Fairmont in the world, if we can do this project here, anybody can do it. As an industry, we have an obligation to reduce our energy usage.”

The result is a reduction of 7,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. That is the equivalent of removing 1,558 cars from the road.

Edwin Frizzell, regional vice president, Central Canada and general manager, Fairmont Royal York echoed Love’s comments on the complexity of this $65-million project. “The

hotel’s legacy heating and cooling systems were replaced with a new zero carbon central utility plant located within the subbasement of the Fairmont Royal York hotel. This central utility plant was connected to Enwave’s deep-lake cooling to provide chilled water to the facility, and to recover heat from adjacent buildings. This heat as well as heat recovered from various hotel systems provides the primary heating source for domestic hot water and comfort heating. The high-efficiency heat recovery system replaces the legacy steam heating system. The deep-lake cooling system replaces the legacy chiller and cooling tower plant. This modernization reduced direct


operational processes and infrastructure is only half the battle. It is equally as important to engage staff and foster a culture of sustainability.”

emissions by 80 per cent,” with the remainder offset by certified carbon offsets.

In addition to the modernization of the physical plant, there were changes to operations such as using AI technology to significantly mitigate food waste. The goal is to reduce food waste by 25 per cent by 2025 and 60 per cent by 2030.

Studies show that one-third of food produced is never consumed and this waste contributes eight per cent to global carbon emissions, which, shockingly, is four times aviation emissions.

Love told guests at the zero carbon announcement that “The Royal York is proof of concept that legacy buildings can transition for the sustainable century ahead.”

While the Royal York is the first property to achieve this status, properties across the chain

are equally—and aggressively—involved in embracing sustainable ideas and operations.

Patrick Jones, regional director, of sustainability for Fairmont’s Western Mountain Collection says: “Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has over 30 years of experience in sustainability leadership.

There have been countless back of house operations changed since the launch of the Fairmont Green Partnership Guide in 1991. For example, since 2003, the hotel has purchased 50 per cent of its energy supply from green energy sources through a Renewable Energy Certificate. An equivalent of 5,500,000 kWh of green energy has been put onto Alberta’s electrical grid each year because of this hotel’s commitment to the environment.

“Phasing out single-use plastic was an easy task for the hotel. A perfect example is plastic water bottles in the guest rooms. The hotel’s water supply comes directly from Lake Louise, and together with a dedicated on-site water treatment plant, produces some of the cleanest drinking water in the entire world. The hotel easily phased out plastic and opted for reusable glasses in the room encouraging guests to partake.”

The Chateau’s engineering department underwent a multiyear audit, nearly all light fixtures were converted to energyefficient bulbs and they looked at new ways to divert items from the landfill. Jones says they are establishing a 2024 carbon baseline for the Chateau which “will be reduced through major capital investment and operational changes by up to 46 per cent by 2030.”

Their decision-making involves “many factors to consider when reviewing the hotel’s equipment and infrastructure. For example, the team looks at the age of equipment, its performance efficiency, its maintenance costs, and feedback from colleagues. If there are opportunities to purchase new equipment (and properly recycle the existing) knowing that it will conserve resources and improve productivity, then the hotel team makes it a priority.”

The Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie has recently received 5 Green Keys Meeting certification and is the fourth hotel in Quebec to earn a 5 Green Key Echo-Rating.

Eleonore Hazart Garnier, executive assistant and sustainability manager, says: “It has been constant work for a few years. The obtainment of other key certifications such as Aliments du Québec, Fourchette Bleue, Ici on Recycle+, and Bienvenue cyclistes! have helped secure our 5th Key. That said, our main achievement is the result of hard work by our engineering department. The hotel is a historical building that has seen

“ 18 SUMMER 2024

major renovations in the last 25 years,” such as using thermos pumps to heat its pools. “The Manoir also hired one person 100 per cent dedicated to sustainability. The sum of the recent improvements and having someone committed to sustainability were instrumental in receiving our 5th Key.”

Like properties across the chain, Garnier says: “Our yearly employee engagement survey provides the opportunity for the staff to voice ideas on how to improve their working space, but they are welcome to make any suggestions at any time to the management team. In the last two years, some of these suggestions have led to the Manoir adding a gym, meeting room, relaxing rooms and a spiritual room for our staff as well as a new kitchen for the staff residency.” They also created a community garden for staff.

As for embracing sustainability into operations, Jones says: “The willingness of staff to champion new programs and changes has been a positive surprise. There have been many times where I thought that staff would push back and dislike initiatives that slightly add to their workload, however, feedback has always been positive—and they even provide suggestions on how to continue building or improving.”

Jones adds: “Changing operational processes and infrastructure is only half the battle. It is equally as important to engage staff and foster a culture of sustainability. People are the key to taking resource reduction and financial savings to the next level. Sustainability can’t be successful at a large organization without everyone’s involvement from all departments and leadership levels.

While Fairmont has long been a sustainability champion, the rest of the sector is getting on board.

Glenn Bowie, general manager of The Westin Nova Scotian, another iconic railway property from 1929, has a long list of initiatives.

The 310-room Westin Nova Scotian not only switched all lighting to LED, but they replaced over 500 windows. Bowie says all air conditioning was converted to variable speed drives, therefore reducing energy consumption. Further to energy reduction, 50 per cent of rooms are on an energy management system which employs occupancy sensors to determine when a room is empty and adjust demand.

The Westin has also gone to load shedding when electric use—and price—is high. They have converted five refrigerator compressors from liquid to air requiring far less energy to make ice on an almost on-demand basis and switched five ice machines with load-holding units.

This harbourside city property has done a lot to deal with water costs. Laundry is on a renewable water (recycles, cleans,

filters) system, which saves water and reduces chemical use; installed a heat recovery chiller to heat water; and switched two water storage tanks and three hot water boilers for more energy efficient ones.

They also changed the pool to saline/salt water. Bowie says, “Switching from chemicals to salt/ saline saves about $6,000 a year since we don’t have to buy concentrate chlorine. The new chemicals and salt are safer for swimmers and the environment.” Maintaining a saline pool is also less work since “we spent less time working at getting the chemicals right.”

Bowie says the ROI for all their actions is five years. His bottom line is “It’s doing what’s right for our environment. Virtually all sustainability upgrades pay off on all levels and check all the boxes.” Those checked boxes include ones from demonstrative guests and groups who expect nothing less from hosts.




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Most of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere have a fundamental problem: we want to reduce our carbon emissions, but we also need to heat our homes.

The good news is there is a way to do both by creating thermal networks. A thermal network is a system of insulated, underground pipes that directly distribute heat to homes and other buildings using heat generated from clean sources — including nuclear reactors.

Rather than using their own furnaces, boilers, fireplaces or electric baseboard heaters to heat buildings, consumers would receive heat directly from a utility.

It’s an opportunity that is set to grow as Canada expands its nuclear energy supply and creates more heat in the process, especially with small modular reactors expected to start coming on-stream in the next decade.


Our research collaboration has produced — with the help of experts from McMaster University, The Boltzmann Institute and the Canadian Nuclear Association—a position paper presenting the case for large-scale thermal networks to be created across Canada, with nuclear power plants potentially providing up to half of the heat.

Similar technology using heat from non-nuclear sources is already a reality in Canada in the form of district energy systems.


Many buildings in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver and on university campuses, such as McMaster University, are served by hot water or steambased central heating plants, using heat that is purpose-made and piped across campus. What’s more, Canada already leads the world in district cooling networks.

Thirteen states in the United States are implementing a thermal networks utility model. In Europe, 67 million people enjoy heating from thermal networks and district heating systems supplied by a variety of sources in a mix that is increasingly less reliant on carbon.

The idea is catching on, and it’s time to scale up.


As many as 70 per cent of Canadians live in communities that could be warmed by thermal networks. The networks would deliver heated water that warms buildings in the same way household radiators distribute heat—but on a much larger public scale.

Such systems are capable of efficiently sending heat through buried pipelines to homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, shopping malls and other structures, greatly reducing the demand for electricity and heating fuel and making space on the electrical grid to accommodate growing electricity demand from electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps.

One of the most appealing aspects of this opportunity is that most of the required heat is already available and going unused. Heat from major sources, such as nuclear power plants, can be transmitted as far as 100 km to where it is needed.

Québec, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are all considering building new or re-starting existing reactors. Together with existing reactors, much of Canada’s population would fall within this range.

In the case of reactors, thermal networks could share their useful leftover heat instead of releasing it into the environment as is typically done today. This water, used in coiling, gathers heat but does not come into contact with nuclear material and is in no way contaminated.

The recent joint declaration at the UN climate conference COP28 to triple nuclear energy

Illustration detailing a hypothetical thermal network utilities system,

capacity by 2050 means there will be significantly more heat from large reactors, such as the new nuclear fleet proposed in Ontario, which could supply warmth to homes in the Greater Toronto Area.

Small modular reactors, which are expected to come on-stream widely as local alternatives to fuel-burning sources of electricity, could supply heat locally while also generating revenue from heat that would otherwise be wasted.

Alternatively, residual heat from restaurants, commercial and industrial processes, water heated by solar or geothermal energy, or the combustion of dried biomass can do exactly the same thing with little to no greenhouse gas emissions.


Though our appetite for thermal networks is growing, apprehension over the cost of creating large-scale public systems has stifled enthusiasm for implementing them here.

Certainly, the challenge of laying new pipelines to every urban home is daunting, but that need not be a barrier. It’s not that long ago that water, electricity and natural gas were not delivered directly to homes and other buildings, either.

by James S. Cotton.
22 SUMMER 2024

The managers of those utilities, both public and private, developed efficient methods for deployment, balanced the cost of their infrastructure over decades and included the financing costs in customers’ bills. All of these techniques could help build thermal networks across Canada.

Natural gas only started to become commonly available in Canada in the 1950s, with networks of buried pipes being extended to the most populated areas of the country through the 1980s. Before then, people had oil, coal or wood delivered, or used electricity from coal-fired plants—all of them significant sources of greenhouse gases.

The conversion made heating cheaper and cleaner. It halved our carbon emissions. It required a huge effort, but it happened, and it can happen again.

Thermal networks present an opportunity to harvest heat from natural sources or heat that would otherwise be wasted and use it for a vital purpose of keeping Canadians warm while helping to reduce carbon emissions.

This article was previously published in The Conversation.

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At the Canadian Hotel Investment Conference (CHIC) 2024 held in Toronto this April, I sat down with David Marriott for a one-on-one conversation on what it means to be a scion of a legendary hospitality family, known for their pioneering and enduring legacy in the global hotel industry.

Our conversation serves as a glimpse into the Marriott ethos of putting people first, a principle that has steered the company through nearly a century of business.

As of 2024, Marriott International has demonstrated strong performance in the world economy, reflecting a significant recovery and growth trajectory post-pandemic. In 2023, Marriott reported a 7.2 per cent increase in worldwide RevPAR, with a notable 17.4 per cent increase in international markets and a 3.3 per cent rise in the U.S. and Canada.

Marriott’s development pipeline is equally ambitious. As of the end of 2023, Marriott’s worldwide development pipeline included 3,379 properties with approximately 573,000 rooms. This pipeline suggests a focus on expansion, with significant growth projected in the luxury and extended stay segments, as well as new brand introductions like Four Points Express by Sheraton in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and StudioRes in the U.S. and Canada

The company has outlined a three-year growth plan through 2025, aiming to add 230,000 to 270,000 net rooms. This plan focuses on leveraging its leading Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program and expanding its brand portfolio across varied market segments to enhance global room growth and fee revenues.

Overall, Marriott’s strategic investments and its resilient, asset-light business model are positioning the company to capitalize on global travel trends and continue its growth trajectory, maintaining a strong competitive stance in the hospitality industry.

Marriott International may be a global enterprise today, but its start was humble, family-oriented, and brave. In the following interview, David Marriott shares insights into his personal journey within the family business, the evolution of Marriott’s operations, and the company’s forward-thinking strategies in sustainability, social responsibility, and technological advancements.



QQ: How did your early experiences shape your decision to follow a career in the hospitality industry?

A: My grandparents, J. Willard and Alice Sheets Marriott, founded our business in May of 1927 as a nine-seat A&W root beer franchise in Washington D.C. They drove 2,100 miles across the country in a Model T Ford with a couple of hundred dollars in their pocket and a small loan to open their dream.

They knew early on that if they took care of their people, the associates would take care of the customer and the customer would come back. That idea is the foundation of our culture and core values—putting people first. Growing up, I observed my dad interacting with associates, going back into the kitchens and the loading dock, shaking hands and thanking them. He had an innate ability to convey how much he cared. My grandparents put a doctor on the payroll very early on in our company’s history, well before healthcare was widely available to ensure that if their associates needed healthcare, they had someone they could go to within the organization.

My grandparents, and then my father, invested in training and focused on empowering our associates and encouraging them to take risks and pursue opportunities. I think my dad would tell you that the thing he’s most proud of in his 66-plus-year career with Marriott are the opportunities that we’ve provided for our people.

J. Willard Marriott
26 SUMMER 2024
Alice Sheets Marriott
Q: When you decided to move into this career path more formally, what was that transition like for you?

A: When I graduated from college and went to work, I pursued my passion for food and beverage. I was assistant sous chef for a year at the Salt Lake City, Downtown Marriott Hotel. My wife was teaching at the time. And then we moved to Boston and I decided to learn the sales side of the business. I started selling small meetings at one of our convention hotels in Boston, the Marriott Copley Place.

I spent about nine years in sales and just loved working with our customers, selling our products and managing a team. Sales is a passion—I think we’re all in sales when you think about it at the end of the day.

I worked my way up through the sales organization and eventually led our global sales team for about four years.

Q: Please share some examples of how Marriott has applied its core values throughout the history of your business.

A: Regarding our culture and core values, we have five pillars: The first is to put people first. The second is to pursue excellence. The third is to embrace change, which leads to innovation. The fourth is to act with integrity. The fifth is to serve the communities where we operate.

Our history is full of changes and innovation starting from a nine-seat root beer stand in the summer months in Washington D.C. In 1927 when the summer cooled off, root beer sales dropped off and my grandparents had to change their business. My grandmother was a double major in Spanish and in English graduating from the University of Utah. She used her language skills to go to the Mexican embassy to request recipes for tamales and chili to begin serving food in their restaurant, The Hot Shoppe.

Then as they expanded their restaurant business, they used to stand on the street corners with a clicker and count the number of people that would walk past corners, and the number of cars… these were simple innovations before the ubiquity of computers and big data. They collected their own data to determine what the best street corners were to expand on.

It was nearly 30 years before we opened our first hotel. That in itself was a major innovation. My grandfather had acquired a piece of land in Arlington, Virginia, just on the other side of the 14th Street Bridge from downtown D.C. He believed that

I enjoyed the experience of travelling the globe and learning how we sell our rooms differently in different parts of the world.

Then I went back to the operation side of things, overseeing a couple of markets on the East Coast U.S., then overseeing the entire East Coast and then as president of the U.S. Full Service Managed by Marriott team for a few years before I joined the board of directors.

At one point, my dad came to me and said, “Look, I’m going to retire at 90…” I find that comical. We can argue whether or not he’s retired! This business is his love and his passion. But, at the time, he also asked me to fill the seat as chairman. It was an important conversation and very humbling.

roads could change, but bridges would never change in terms of their location. My father and another executive convinced him to put a hotel there and our first hotel was realized in Arlington in 1957, The Twin Bridges Motor Hotel, later known as the Twin Bridges Marriott.

Eventually we shifted focus to lodging as our core business, but it was a journey to get there. Before that, our hospitality business had grown into theme parks and cruise ships—we’re back into the cruise ship business now with the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

We were the first company in our sector in lodging to have a rewards program. We were also the first hotel company in our industry to have a full portfolio of brands.

We strive to evolve how we engage with our associates. A recent innovation here is our “Be” strategy. It’s a concrete way for us to engage with our associates to help them along their career paths. We want our associates to see Marriott as a career and not just a job, and to help them find the opportunities that exist within this industry.

We’ve also extended our brands and platforms to embrace more customer segments, giving our customers choice within our ecosystem to have a place for each of the types of stays that they want to have with us.

In today’s climate around housing affordability and extended stay models that are meeting some of those needs, as well as our recent leap into the mid and moderate-scale space,

Twin Bridges

with the acquisition of Cities Express Hotels and the creation of StudioRes. Some of the brands we’ve created overseas, like Four Points Express, aim to address that space in Europe.

We’re constantly looking at ways to engage more customers, innovate and bring more customers into our Marriott Bonvoy ecosystem. Some of these innovations include our partnerships

Q: Please speak to us about the sustainability and social responsibility aspects of your business today.

A: Our approach to sustainability stems from that core value that I touched on of serving our communities and serving our world. It’s a key focus for us to help make the world a better place. We feel this is our strongest competitive advantage in our space because it’s authentic, it’s quantifiable.

As we’ve grown to now nearly 9,000 hotels around the globe, it becomes more challenging to keep the culture and core values strong and to keep that focus on making the world a better place. So we’ve implemented processes and structures to help us do that.

We have business councils around the globe, and these business councils, well over a hundred of them are made up of a collection of hotels within those various markets. They work together to look for ways to serve the communities within which they work. They also work on government challenges and issues within each municipality that might impact or affect our business. They work together on key strategic issues within the company. We see how we hire our general managers and our business councils as a way to protect and preserve our culture.

Then we have our platform called Serve 360, which enables us to engage with all of our associates around the globe.

For environmental sustainability, an example is the work we’re doing around EV charging. Thousands of hotels across North America in the U.S. and Canada now have charging stations for electric vehicles. And there’s so much more that we’re doing within that space; we’re striving to have more LEED-certified hotels and we have a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.

When we talk about empowerment, again, it’s really about giving people opportunities. Looking at female leaders within our company at senior levels, 47 per cent of our leaders at senior levels in the company are female. We are working towards a goal of gender parity.

We look to my grandmother as the inspiration on that front because when you think in 1927, she was essentially our first chief financial officer, she was our first executive chef, and she

such as our recent partnership with Taylor Swift. We have partnerships from Formula One to the NFL to Manchester United in the Premier League, all to engage with our Bonvoy members to provide them with those lifelong memories and experiences that they’re seeking and tie that into their loyalty and their experiences with Marriott.

was always involved in design. She was our first female board member. She was a dynamic personality, a remarkable person and a real inspiration for leaders in our company. When you look at minority leaders in our company, we’re about 22 per cent in senior levels and working towards a goal of 25 per cent by the end of 2025.

We have a goal to hire 3,000 refugees across the globe by the end of next year. As you can imagine, a lot of people who are displaced are coming to the U.S. and Canada and we’re hiring them.

We are working to prevent and mitigate human trafficking. We’ve provided training for 1.2 million of our associates over the years, and counting. This training is designed to help identify those moments when associates might observe the signs of human trafficking, to help put a stop to that and curtail the terrible tragedies that occur in that space.

When we talk about nurturing, it’s about taking care of the environment and members of our local communities. We have a goal to reach 15 million service hours by the end of 2025. In Canada, we have a big focus on the Children’s Miracle Network. The business councils and the team up here have raised about $4.5 million to give back to the communities, $700,000 of that was raised for the Children’s Miracle Network.

We are working with organizations locally to help with food waste to redeploy the food that’s safe to redeploy, to make sure that it’s getting into the hands of those that have need.

We created a committee at the board level more than 20 years ago called our Committee of Excellence. Today it’s called our Inclusion and Social Impact Committee. It came about as a way to focus on promoting diversity within and we were one of the very first public boards to have a committee like that.

When you’re taking care of the people who are working with you, it serves the company, it serves the community and it serves society. We feel like it’s the core of who we are, and that is the most important thing for us to hold onto and to continue to promote as we go forward.

28 SUMMER 2024

Q: How has changing technology affected your business?

A: The company has operated for close to a century, through a myriad of societal changes, through wartime and peacetime, throughout movements and ever-changing geopolitical landscapes—these events and ideas have informed our business practices.

Take the evolution of data and technology, it has changed business exponentially and it’s more important today than it’s ever been. Thank goodness we have this incredible Marriott Bonvoy program, which has more than 200 million members now, which is exciting. This enables us to get to know our customers better and to have better data and information so that we can serve their needs better going forward.

We believe the minute that data and technology replace the human touch, industry loses its way. That would be something that would damage our industry because it is

based on relationships, it’s based on that person-to-person contact, and it’s a service industry. But we can utilize data and technology to help us engage with the customer more efficiently and more effectively and in a more targeted manner to help them have more memorable experiences when they’re staying at our hotels.

Then of course, with AI becoming a focus and interest around the globe, we are experimenting with AI within our brands to provide customers with suggestions based on their travel history and their preferences on where they might like to stay next. We’re going to learn from that and see how that might apply to a broader platform. But we think using AI technology to engage with our customers to enhance their experiences and provide the experiences that they’re looking for is something that will make people’s travel even more impactful and meaningful.

Q: What does your career mean to you personally? What is your advice for other professionals?

A: Engagement with people is critical and building trust so that those around you are willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I think with every team that I have built, one of the first exercises that I’ve gone through is building trust and having those open conversations and that open dialogue with them.

It’s not easy to bring your boss bad news. It’s even more difficult to bring your boss bad news when his or her name is on the building. We’ll work through these issues and challenges together and we’ll figure out how to get past those obstacles. That’s important for me.

The other piece is taking risks and listening. So don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Let’s try to push the envelope and try new things that haven’t been done before. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll pivot and we’ll move on to something else. But take risks and take risks in your careers—challenge yourself. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations, that’s really where you grow the most.

When I think about teams that I’ve built, I encourage people who aren’t necessarily experts within certain disciplines

to weigh in on those disciplines and those conversations. I encourage my human resource leaders to weigh in on sales issues, or our finance leaders to weigh in on operations. Our operations leaders weigh in on revenue management.

In addition to building trust, and taking risks, I would say maybe the most important thing is to be a good listener.

Bill Marriott

Q: What’s on the horizon for Marriott International?

A: Well, my dad’s favourite word has always been “more.” We want to grow more. When you look at our distribution as a company, we have between 16 and 17 per cent of the supply in the U.S. In the industry outside of the U.S. we have 3 per cent of the supply. It nets out to about 8 or 9 per cent of the supply globally. We have a lot of growth opportunity outside of the U.S. We have growth opportunity inside of the U.S., especially within that mid-scale segment that we talked about. And luxury continues to grow as well.

We want to grow our platforms globally—including the growth here in Canada. We have 283 hotels in Canada today with 84 hotels in development, which is super exciting.

The growth we’ve seen here in Canada under Don Cleary’s leadership has been outstanding. The team will continue to build on his legacy. We want to continue to look for partnerships like some of the ones that I touched on, and how we might grow our footprint and how we can get more engaged in more aspects of the entire travel lifespan from start to finish. We’ll continue to challenge ourselves, push ourselves on the technology front, and look for ways that we can create more exciting opportunities for our guests to stay globally with us, whether it’s on a Ritz-Carlton Yacht, whether it’s in the Maasai Mara at our new JW Hotel or two of the Ritz-Carltons that are under development there.

We will continue to expand our frontiers and provide more options for our customers to stay with us and to experience Marriott customer service through adjacencies, partnerships, growth opportunities, and acquisitions. We want to continue to grow and continue to own the travel space as best we can.


Everybody wins when you buy a Milnor. That’s because Milnor knows industrial laundry better than anyone. Smaller facilities get superior wash quality and a low price from Milnor’s compact VRJ washerextractor. Larger facilities enjoy washing 100, 140 or even 160 lb. at a time in our larger models. They are built with RinSave® water saving technology to save water and time.

Everybody wins when you buy a Milnor. That’s because Milnor knows industrial laundry better than anyone. Smaller facilities get superior wash quality and a low price from Milnor’s compact VRJ washerextractor. Larger facilities enjoy washing 100, 140 or even 160 lb. at a time in our larger models. They are built with RinSave® water saving technology to save water and time.

wins when you buy a Milnor. That’s because Milnor knows industrial laundry better than anyone. Smaller facilities get superior wash quality and a low price from Milnor’s compact VRJ washerextractor. Larger facilities enjoy washing 100, 140 or even 160 lb. at a time in our larger models. They are built with RinSave® water saving technology to save water and time.

Contact an authorized Milnor distributor or call 504-712-7656 to find out more about washing more linen with less water than ever before.

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BWH Hotels is a leading, global hospitality enterprise comprised of three hotel companiesWorldHotels, Best Western Hotels & Resorts and SureStay Hotels. With approximately 4,300 hotels in over 100 countries and territories worldwide and 19 brands across every chain scale segment, from economy to luxury, BWH Hotels suits the needs of developers and guests in every market.

BWH Hotels’ foundational company, Best Western Hotels & Resorts was established in 1946. Over the decades, the company has expanded internationally and diversified its portfolio to cater to various market segments. As a result of Best Western Hotels & Resorts’ growth, along with its integration of WorldHotels and SureStay Hotels, BWH Hotels was established in 2019 to serve as the parent company of these three hotel networks. This unified and refreshed structure to BWH Hotels has since enhanced the enterprises’ global identity and market adaptability; and while there has been a great deal of evolution since its roots, one thing remains the same—the company’s acute awareness of owner and developer needs.

While BWH Hotels and the travel industry at large expect to see continued growth in travel demand, there are four brand segments the company has identified as having the most market potential:


Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier


Newly launched, @HOME by Best Western is BWH Hotels’ extendedstay brand. This market segment is poised for significant growth this year, and @HOME offers a great deal of flexibility for both construction and ongoing operations with its mantra of “Options, not Mandates.” The developer decides what is best for the location and the demand generators. It is a hotel that is efficient to run with a low staff load.


BWH Hotels’ boutique brand Aiden by Best Western is focused on the conversion market and allows owners to drive significant ROI with the right strategic renovations. Aiden offers developers the opportunity to reposition an asset that they already own or a hotel they are buying that they know has the potential to be something more, something special. This results in some very unique and very cool properties.


BWH Hotels’ soft brands—BW Signature Collection by Best Western, BW Premier Collection by Best Western, SureStay Collection by Best Western and the four soft brands under the WorldHotels umbrella —all allow owners to retain independent products with individual personalities while tapping into the enterprise’s strong reservation delivery, technology platform, and sales and marketing support.

BWH Hotels continues to explore opportunities for growth and innovation. This includes expanding into new markets, further diversifying its accommodation offerings, and leveraging technology to enhance operational efficiencies and customer experiences.

GEOFFREY (GEOFF) BECKETT Director, Canadian Development, BWH Hotels & Resorts



With over four decades' worth of hotel experience under his belt, hotel industry veteran Christopher Ashby has seen a lot of change during his time in marketing, and yet, some things stay very much the same…

32 SUMMER 2024

When Mary and Joseph tried checking into that famous inn over 2,000 years ago, they failed to take into account one major strategy: booking in advance. As the world knows, they eventually found….other accommodations.

According to veteran hotel sales and marketing executive Christopher Ashby, whose current role is director of sales and marketing at Old Mill Toronto Hotel, some things really haven’t changed that much while other elements of hospitality have wholly transformed.

Ashby says that hotels are typically very traditional environments.

“What’s changed is the ornateness, the size and the number of services offered, “ he says, “but the fundamentals haven’t changed that much at all.”

A major player in the accommodations industry for over 40 years and a board member of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), Ashby has fulfilled various roles with over 16 hotels throughout his career. He’s been charged with opening three hotels, closing one, and rebranding another. He’s done taskforce work for an additional three hotels, and worked for both independents and major chains, with most of his career spent in the luxury sector. Throughout the years, there have been peaks and valleys, successes and losses, and Ashby’s been a keen observer of and participant in many of these highs and lows.


The journey to management began with an auspicious debut—shortly after a young Ashby was hired for a role at L’Hotel he felt a certain degree of vulnerability, and this compelled him to out himself before starting the job. “The corporate office’s actions made one believe that homosexuality didn’t exist within the executive level and it was a very male-dominated environment,” he says. “The only women in executive roles were housekeepers.”

Things began to shift in the 1980s with the corresponding rise of HIV/ AIDS, he says. “The next generation was much more liberal. The tide’s not completely turned but there’s been substantial social change.”

Ashby notes that women and gay men were both facing a glass ceiling in the accommodations sector back then and shared experiences of prejudice and facing roadblocks in their career development.

Fortunately, that changed over time, and Ashby now sees being gay as an asset to his role. “It’s provided opportunities,” he says. “Human resources spends hours trying to be responsive to different audiences because diversity is now front and centre in the HR world.”

As a manager, Ashby has leveraged his position to be a lightning rod for staff sharing stories of perceived obstacles, while in turn creating leadership opportunities for his charges.

After many setbacks, the LGBTQ2S+ community is now fairly wellrepresented and accepted within the accommodations industry, at all levels, and this has generated positive business outcomes as demonstrated by the willingness of hotels to market themselves as inclusive, welcoming

and safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ travellers. Not only that, but gay travellers seem to have more disposable income, a fact not unnoticed by savvy hotel marketing specialists.

In a 2015 study conducted by Global Marketing, the behaviour of gay male travellers differed from lesbian travellers in several ways: gay men were more likely to travel with other adults, visit gay bars, and have more disposable time and income; lesbian travellers were more likely to travel with family, be more interested in child-friendly rather than LGBTQ2S+ friendly environments, and have travel preferences and budget constraints more closely aligned with people who are not LGTBQ2S+ than to gay men. People who are transgender might be more likely to travel for medical reasons, seeking high-quality and affirmational medical and surgical care.

A more recent impact on the sector has been navigating the devastating blow to the industry caused by COVID-19. Overnight thousands of people lost their jobs. “Restaurant staff who had been on the job for 25 years were now gone,” he says. “I was one of those casualties.” During the pandemic, many who lost their jobs transitioned their skills into new roles outside of the hotel industry and when the smoke had cleared it became difficult to find new talent to fill old roles.

“Housekeeping roles were difficult to fill and they were one of the first teams needed to return when the industry started its recovery,” Ashby notes.

And while the economic effects of COVID-19 are still being felt, both the industry’s profits and people’s travel patterns are gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Christopher Ashby

Building a sense of ‘destination’ in the city

Located in Toronto’s west end, the Old Mill Toronto Hotel currently stands near the original site of Toronto’s first sawmill, built in 1793. A series of fires destroyed subsequent mills, the last one in 1881. Its ruins stood on the property until 2000. In 1914 The Old Mill Tea Garden restaurant was opened by developer Robert Home Smith next to the mill’s ruins. Over the following decades, 16 banquet rooms were added, and during the 1980s, a wedding chapel. In 2001, the hotel was added on the grounds of the Mill’s ruins, using the original stones to create the lower level of the grand Tudor-style hotel which now stands adjacent to the 1914 restaurant as a kind of homage to times past.

Today the Old Mill Toronto Hotel, now owned by OMT Hotel Management Inc., is a luxury boutique accommodation that boasts 57 rooms of varying styles and suites, a spa and a setting surrounded by nature, steps from the Humber River.

One of the newer additions to the hotel’s repertoire is the recent acquisition of its sales and marketing director.


Christopher Ashby has held various marketing and operational positions across the hotel industry including sales manager, general manager, director of marketing, consultant and board member with renowned organizations including:

• Dymon Group of Companies

• Marriott International

• Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts

• Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Toronto

• InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

• The Sutton Place Hotel Toronto





If you’re a couple, a 50th anniversary calls for a special party, or maybe a luxury cruise. If you’re a hotel, it calls for a generous makeover slated for completion just in time for your birthday.

Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle Hotel will hit the half-century mark in 2025, and they’ve launched a $50 million refurbishment to mark the occasion.

Renovations have been taking place over the past few years, including a new yoga and meditation studio, a Westin family club, a new lending program for workout gear, a shiny, new lobby and other changes. The South Tower, which has

450 of the 977 keys at the hotel, is currently undergoing a massive upgrade. Changes are slated for completion before the hotel’s halfcentury anniversary next year.

The South Tower renovation was planned to take place before the pandemic but was postponed for a couple of years, hotel manager Stacey Rodrigues told STAY Magazine in an interview.

“Really, it’s bringing it up to the newest generation of Westin Hotel, and the sort of guiding light or driving force is really to embrace everything that is Westin; that calming feel, more natural colours.

The waterfront in Toronto is now the part of the city that’s developing. Everything has started to shift here.” “

“The way the room is designed is to make the focal point the view. For most rooms, it’s the lake but for some rooms, it’s the city, which is equally pretty on its own. The rooms are quite simple and clean. There’s minimal artwork, to showcase the view… guest response to the renovation has been very positive, and we look forward to showcasing our renovated guestrooms to new and returning guests throughout the months to come.”

Rodrigues said the property was due for a facelift.

“It was time,” she said. “The ownership of the hotel changed six or seven years ago. It’s privately held, this is an investment property.

Rodrigues said the owners see the hotel as an iconic property in Canada, “and they really want to bring it back.”

Given the development of Toronto’s waterfront in the past few years, with new buildings popping up seemingly every month, it’s also a good part of town to be in.

“The waterfront in Toronto is now the part of the city that’s developing. Everything has started to shift here,” she said.

Rodrigues further commented that the hotel owners feel they can boost revenue by improving the look and feel of the now 49-year-old buildings.

“They’re looking for a return, for sure. The South Tower is the start for them. The other tower will be on their radar, as is the fitness centre. Our convention centre across the street is on target to get some kind of refresh later this year, then the lobby, so this is really the start, and it marries well with Don Alfonso (the Michelin-starred Don Alfonso 1890 restaurant) being up on the top of the South Tower.

“It’s investing and making this a hotel a destination people want to come to.”

Asked if she feels having a top-notch restaurant on site makes a statement about the Harbour Castle, Rodrigues nodded.

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“I think so. We want to make a change and reposition (the hotel) a little bit. We want to bring it to the next level.”

Rodrigues said it’s hard to say if business bookings are all the way back given the limited inventory (due to renovations).

“Transient demand we’re finding is back to 2019 levels, or close to it. That’s what we’re budgeting for in 2024. 2023 was an amazing year for the hotel, both group and transient. I’m not sure the market would say we’re fully back, but...we’re very, very close.”

Rodrigues said guest feedback has been extremely positive.

Your STAY correspondent had the opportunity to spend the night in January and found great changes. The lake views were lovely even in winter, and there was a classic but simple feel to the room.

There are little touches that would remind a guest they’re resting their head on the shores of one of the Great Lakes, including blue, wavy carpeting, a lamp that looked like something off an old ship, and bits of nautical-looking rope around an oblong mirror. The room also had hardwood floors and soft leather tones with brass accents.

“It’s on brand but we had the ability to make choices that sort of resonate with our neighbourhood and our location,” Rodrigues said.

The hotel has a large indoor pool with a large deck that lets in lots of light. It also opens to a fifth-floor outdoor area that’s quite sizeable.

The hotel also boasts a large gym with Peloton bikes and the latest workout gear, as well as a yoga studio, whichfits the Westin wellness theme.

One fun feature is the sleep menu, which allows guests to choose their own pillow and order everything from herbal teas to eye pillows (lest that Lake Ontario light wake you up too early). There’s also a sleep-well food menu to help you drift off.

As well as refreshing the rooms, there is the question of the adjacent conference centre. While representatives of the hotel did not elaborate at

this time on the redevelopment of the conference centre, published reports have said there are plans for a new, modern conference facility with a high-rise office above and street-level retail operations to enhance the pedestrian experience in the area.

The Harbour Castle has placed renewed emphasis on its food and beverage offerings.

Don Alfonso 1890 has had a Michelin star for two years running, and the space atop the hotel’s South Tower is spectacular. The food is exquisite, and they also make cocktails that are just as pretty as the dinner dishes.

One of Toronto’s best-kept culinary secrets is Savoury, a private dining experience the hotel hasn’t advertised much.

Menus are customized according to guest preferences and the dishes are reflective of Toronto’s multicultural neighbourhoods and utilize local ingredients. Head hotel chef Daniel Craig and his

staff can whip up a dinner for eight to 12 people, with matching wines.

It’s bookable only by in-house sales and reservations and offers diners a different, custom menu each time they visit. Unlike some highend restaurants that give guests a “take it or leave it menu,” Savoury staff work with customers to find out what they would like.

Craig likes to have fun in the kitchen. When I dined at Savoury, we had small Ontario potatoes coated in kale and edible clay, making them look like small, grey, rounded rocks, with a dollop of aioli on top. The Ontario ribeye was tender and rich, and the exquisite mushroom consommé (it takes 24 hours to make) was cooked up in front of us in what looked like a Grade 10 science lab beaker.

“I love being able to do this and break away from staging big events and doing something fun and interactive like this,” Craig told us between courses. “It’s very cool. Very cool.

“I like giving people a new taste or showing them a new presentation and cool techniques. It’s like theatre.”

Craig last year was inducted into the Academie Culinaire de France (ACF); one of the oldest organizations of professional chefs based in France. He attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu School of culinary arts in Paris. He was also named Executive Chef of the Year by Marriott International in 2017.


The International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) produces an annual capex report. Its 2023 study suggests that over the last 10 years hotels spent 8 per cent of total revenue on capital expenditures, and/or Property Improvement Plans (PIPs). for branded hotels, according to Carrie Russell, senior managing partner at HVS Canada.

“While this is stated as an annual 8 per cent amount it is usually spent in chunks, with a softgoods renovation every 5 – 7 years and casegoods renovations every 10 – 12 years. There are also mechanical and structural issues that require capital, but those tend to be based on life expectancy of the item and longer 20+ year time horizons (roof, boilers, HVAC, plumbing, electrical etc),” adds Russell.

Curtis Gallagher, principal, Canadian hospitality lead at Avison-Young concurs, adding: “PIPs are generally 5 to 9 per cent of revenue over that period depending on the brand. This expenditure reflects the cost to sustain current hotel performance over the next cycle. ROI projects and any building structural or site costs are above the PIP amount.”

In the Canadian hotel industry, maintaining a competitive edge is important for sustainable growth and long-term success. One strategic tool for driving this progress is the renovation PIP, which serves as a blueprint for enhancing hotel properties, revitalizing business operations, and securing a brand’s future in the market.

A PIP outlines a comprehensive set of renovations, upgrades, and improvements that a hotel property undergoes to meet brand standards, enhance guest experiences, and adapt to evolving market trends. While they may also be perceived as a financial burden, PIPs offer substantial benefits that outweigh their costs.

PIPs play a pivotal role in fostering growth within the hotel business. By investing in renovations and modernization, hotels can attract new customers, retain loyal guests, and increase revenue streams. Upgraded facilities, refreshed aesthetics, and enhanced amenities elevate the overall guest experience, resulting in positive reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations, and higher occupancy rates.

PIPs are essential for maintaining brand consistency and integrity. In a competitive market, brand recognition and reputation are invaluable assets. By adhering to brand standards and implementing PIP requirements, hotels align themselves with the brand’s identity, values, and quality benchmarks. Consistency across properties fosters trust among consumers and enhances brand loyalty, driving sustained business growth.

PIPs position hotel brands for future success by ensuring relevance and competitiveness in the market. In an era of rapid technological advancements and changing consumer preferences, adaptability is key. PIPs allow hoteliers to stay ahead of the curve by incorporating innovative technologies, sustainable practices, and experiential offerings that resonate with modern travellers. By future-proofing their properties through PIPs, hotels can remain agile and responsive to industry shifts, safeguarding their relevance and profitability over time.

PIPs contribute to the overall improvement of the Canadian hospitality landscape. By elevating the quality of hotel properties and guest experiences, PIPs raise the industry standard and drive positive economic impact. Enhanced hotels attract more tourists, stimulate local economies, and contribute to job creation, benefiting communities across Canada.

By embracing PIPs as strategic investments rather than mere expenses, hoteliers can unlock new opportunities for success, elevate guest experiences, and strengthen their position in the market. In the ever-evolving world of hospitality, embracing change through PIPs is not just a choice but a necessity for long-term prosperity.

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While it’s something we have heard many times, a discussion about the state of labour in the Canadian tourism sector (which for the purposes of this article includes the hotel industry) can’t begin without reiterating just how drastic an impact the pandemic had on the industry and the country’s overall economy.

According to a report from The Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC), in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, employment in the tourism sector fell to 1.62 million workers (from around 2.062 million Canadians employed in the tourism sector in 2019) and the number of active tourism businesses in Canada rapidly fell by 21.9 per cent. By 2021, employment rose just 2.2 per cent to 1.66 million workers.

Today, things are definitely looking up. Many experts say that the overall state of the tourism workforce has improved, but to what degree?


economy. The workforce exodus disproportionately affected career-oriented professionals. These employees sought stable, permanent, and reliable work and the disruption of the pandemic only served to highlight the volatile nature of the sector during global crises.

Tourism HR Canada found that many of these workers, especially those who found employment in other sectors, were unlikely to return to their previous jobs in tourism. And for those who could be drawn back, their expectations around working conditions and compensation have changed, making it vital for hospitality businesses to attract them with new incentives, policies and programs designed to support careerseekers for the long term.

Understanding the challenges

There remain challenges that employers are facing in the labour market and both policymakers and industry professionals are seeking ways to improve the labour market and understand ways to thrive moving forward.

The tourism sector was one of the hardest-hit sectors when it came to pandemic-related unemployment—including a mass exodus from the hospitality sector (both foodservice and accommodations). During this economic shutdown, the tourism labour force—in particular, women, racialized workers, and immigrant workers—was profoundly affected by the loss of employment and income.

These employment issues would continue long after the shutdown began, with many employees finding work in other industries outside of tourism and failing to return to the industry.

The tourism sector accounts for almost 9.5 per cent of the total employment in Canada and is an important driver of the

The recovery has exceeded expectations

In 2023, the Canadian hotel industry experienced a recovery across all major markets in Canada, exceeding pre-pandemic levels in key performance indicators such as Average Daily Rate (ADR), Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR), and Occupancy.

Tourism HR Canada has highlighted a steady recovery in tourism employment, reaching over 2 million workers as of December 2023. The current growth is robust in sectors like recreation and entertainment, travel services, and food and beverage services. Although there are some ongoing challenges with hiring and retaining workers, it is expected that employment numbers will soon surpass 2019 numbers.

Post-COVID, as demand for tourism services and products increases and international travellers return, reattracting the displaced workforce is a key priority for the sector.

42 SUMMER 2024

Industry sentiment

According to Destination Canada in Q4 2023, total tourism revenue exceeded 2019 levels, generating nearly $109.5 billion by the end of 2023. This represents the recovery of the tourism sector from the COVID-19 pandemic, one year earlier than projected. The industry, post-recovery, is expected to grow faster than the general economy at 5.8 per cent.

According to Marc Ercolao, economist at TD Economics, Canada’s job market will continue to cool in 2024, but it should hold up better than in previous cyclical downturns.

Climbing unemployment rates across the nation will be predominantly driven by still-solid growth in labour supply as opposed to a mass deterioration in hiring.

Pockets of public-sector industries are still notably tight. Meanwhile, private-sector hiring has slowed markedly over the past several months.

Wage growth is expected to moderate as employment slows, unemployment tracks higher, and job vacancies decline further. However, rising union wages may delay this moderation.

Across the provinces, Alberta and the Atlantic region should outperform as still-decent employment growth can better keep pace with labour force gains. Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia (B.C.) will likely suffer from a more pronounced slowdown in hiring.

Valerie Upfold, founder and principal of Val Upfold Inc. says, “There are still a lot more openings than people are hiring for, but this is generally how the industry works. In 2022 there were bidding wars for labour because everybody needed people, even for hourly workers. A lot of that has to do with restaurants and accommodations stepping up their game when it came to providing health benefits, focusing on mental health and well-being. The result was that people did come back to the industry and they were getting paid more than before.”

Upfold continues, “Hotels are faring better than the food service side. Speaking to human resource departments in hotels, there hasn’t been as much of a slowdown when it comes to hiring as there is in the restaurant industry—[hotels] are moving ahead and hiring.” She adds that she hears the same sentiment when speaking to other consulting firms who work with hotels and restaurants.

“The labour market has improved over a few years ago, with more applications per job posting.” Roz Blaker, area vice president, owner and franchise services at Marriott Hotels Canada says, “However there is no doubt that a shortage of skilled labour remains in sectors of our industry, and labour markets overall remain tight. Marriott has taken aggressive actions to reach more of the talent in the marketplace and make it easier for applicants to start a career by streamlining our application process and implementing new technology.”

Understanding barriers and opportunities

When it comes to addressing some of the barriers facing potential employees interested in the hospitality industry, skills training is essential to providing the candidates with the tools they need to face the modern-day consumer.

Accommodation businesses in Canada, like many globally, face challenges in managing customer expectations postpandemic, to a degree that is often more acute than in other industry segments.

Total tourism revenue in 2023 The industry, post-recovery,
grow faster than the general economy at 5.8 per cent. $109.5 BILLION STAYMAGAZINE.CA 43

Heightened Expectation for Cleanliness and Safety Standards Digital Solutions

Experiences > Accommodations

Price Sensitivity

Key factors contributing to these challenges:

Since the pandemic, there has been a heightened awareness and expectation for cleanliness and safety standards. Hotels and other accommodation businesses are under pressure to maintain rigorous sanitization protocols, which often involve additional costs and staffing requirements. Customers now expect visible and continuous efforts to ensure environments are safe, which can be difficult and expensive to sustain.

As the the hotel sector has recovered from severe labour shortages, those shortages affected the ability to meet service standards that customers expected. This is vastly improved today, however.

The pandemic accelerated the need for digital solutions in booking, check-in, customer service, and even in-room technology. Adapting to these technological expectations requires significant investment from

accommodation businesses. While technology can enhance efficiency and customer experience, the transition can be rocky and expensive, especially for smaller operators.

Post-pandemic, there is significant price sensitivity among travellers. Accommodation businesses face the dual challenge of needing to increase prices to cover higher operational costs (like enhanced cleaning protocols and wages to attract labour) while also facing pressure from consumers looking for discounts and deals. This can squeeze profit margins and make it difficult to meet both operational needs and customer expectations.

The pandemic has altered what guests value in their travel experiences. There is a greater emphasis on experiences over mere accommodations, with a demand for personalization and unique offerings. This shift requires accommodation businesses to rethink their service offerings, which can be a complex and resource-intensive process.

“At Marriott, we aim to remove any barriers to entry into our industry and our company, and some ways of doing this are early interaction with the youth in our country through programs that are partnered with universities and gateway programs such as ‘Be our Guest’ in the Toronto area and other

programs that aim to find the best talent currently in Canada and also attract valuable newcomers to Canada.”

When it comes to highlighting the opportunities in the industry, Upfold mentioned that the industry must find ways to attract the youth and a part of that is changing the biases around the tourism and hospitality industry.

Education in hospitality and tourism is also evolving to meet the new demands of the industry. For instance, schools like the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology emphasize the importance of both traditional management skills and modern demands like technology and luxury services management. The school has been recognized for its high-quality programs and the success of its graduates in the hospitality sector

“Being able to highlight what all the benefits are in hospitality is so important—it’s a more social environment, employees get exposure to other cultures, there are often discounts and you’re involved in an exciting work environment. We could also do more to promote transferrable skills.”

While Upfold acknowledges that the industry as a whole has gotten better at explaining the benefits, she believes that they have to continue to refine that messaging and make sure it is communicated.

There is still work to be done to enhance the perception of a career in tourism and a creative approach to compensation will likely need to be developed, to retain young people in the sector.

Blaker suggests, “Governments can support through investment in training and education in these industries, including post-secondary schools in hospitality and culinary programming. Assistance is always welcome to help promote the many career opportunities in hospitality and tourism, critical as the tourism sector in Canada represents [a significant percentage] of the Canadian workforce.”

In Marriott’s case, they partner with colleges and universities to showcase opportunities for career advancement through internships and their management trainee program to integrate new graduates and set them up for career advancement within the company and industry.

Women, racialized individuals and immigrants were some of the most negatively impacted by the labour issues caused by the pandemic. In the first two months of the pandemic, the drastic employment loss among women was noted to be at “a level not seen in over 40 years,” according to a study by Beyond Recovery in British Columbia.

Some ways that hotels are addressing employees’ needs are through programs and initiatives such as a focus on workplace flexibility and holistic wellness programs focused on physical, mental and financial well-being.

Upfold says, “Hospitality has traditionally been behind in salary and benefits so we’ve had to step up the game there.” Being an industry that works a lot of hours, recognizing this and offering more flexibility around scheduling is beneficial. She adds, “Ten years ago as an employee you would have to be completely open to scheduling requests, but because of the labour shortage, employers now need to offer more flexibility. It is generally a younger workforce, more Generation Z and younger Millennials who prioritize work-life balance and equity and transparency.” Another consideration is offering hybrid opportunities for office employees who work in departments such as marketing and human resources to stay on par with what other employers outside of the industry are doing.

A resilient sector on the road to recovery

According to “The Canadian Hotel Market Report” by Avison Young, over the past year, the commercial real estate market continued its rebound from the pandemic, showcasing the resilience and strengthened efficiency of hotels. Despite economic pressures, hotels have shown they can adapt to challenging times and emerge successful. Looking ahead, challenges could arise with travellers looking to spend less due to uncertainty in the economy.


Over the next four years, Ontario’s tourism labour market is forecasted to grow, with openings being created from expansion demand due to economic growth and replacement demand from employees leaving their occupations. At the same time, an increase of 78,000 new workers is expected to join the labour force as new migrants, graduates and re-entrants.

Tourism SkillsNet Ontario, the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario and the Ontario Tourism Education Corporation put together the following labour-related recommendations for the industry: promoting tourism as a career, recruiting beyond the domestic labour pool, and using data-driven decision-making. A key policy win such as the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program cap being expanded, to reach 18,000 by 2025 is just one example of the work being done to encourage a healthy labour force moving forward.

To read more about hotel workforce projections from the Hotel Association of Canada, please turn to page 7 in this issue.


The Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC)

Avison Young

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

TourismHR Canada

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Abraham Tieh is the director of national commercial property tax at O’Connor and Associates. He offers his assessment of the current landscape by addressing the challenges facing Canadian hotel owners.

In the realm of Canada’s hotel industry, a pressing concern has emerged: property taxes. With substantial increases already affecting provinces like Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario anticipating a sharp rise in the coming year, hotel owners are gearing up for the impact.

“Last year saw significant cost increases in labour, insurance, and interest,” he notes. “Coupled with a notable surge in property taxes, it’s posing a substantial challenge for the industry.”

Drawing attention to Ontario’s unique predicament, Tieh points out the long interval since commercial property revaluations, leading to significant financial shortfalls for cities and schools. “Next year’s anticipated tax hike will undoubtedly have seismic effects,” he warns, “and those unprepared may find it difficult to weather the storm.”

Reflecting on successful strategies employed in the United States, Tieh emphasizes the importance of discerning between market value and taxable value—a crucial distinction often overlooked by hotel owners.

“Tax assessors typically appraise hotels based on their full market value,” he explains, “yet a considerable portion of a hotel’s revenue derives from intangible business factors, such as brand recognition, which are exempt from taxation.”

Tieh outlines a pragmatic approach to extract non-taxable components from revenue, effectively reducing taxable value and bolstering the bottom line.

“Property tax reduction offers a straightforward means to counteract rising operational expenses and enhance loan ratios for refinancing,” he advises.


The O’Connor approach quantifies a brand’s impact on a hotel’s performance, considering revenue fluctuations when a brand is introduced, removed, or compared to others. By deducting associated franchisor fees, the resulting net gain represents non-taxable business value.

O’Connor & Associates are advocates for reform in how tax assessors evaluate hotels. Through collaboration with hotel associations across North America and franchisors, O’Connor educates hotel owners on effective property tax reduction strategies. With a diverse clientele spanning thousands of hotels globally and a robust team of professionals, O’Connor stands ready to empower hotel owners in navigating the complexities of property taxes.

As Canadian hotel owners brace themselves for the impending tax challenges, the insights shared by Tieh offer a pragmatic approach—a roadmap for navigating the terrain ahead with resilience and foresight.



Unlocking the power of strategic brand partnerships

The hospitality industry has undergone several seismic shifts in recent years. Yet despite the rise of personally owned vacation housing options, a global pandemic that shut down travel, and global economic turbulence, hotels are still attracting visitors. That’s reassuring, but it emphasizes the need for hotels to adopt competitive marketing strategies, including partnership marketing by way of brand collaborations.

How popular have hotels and travel become? Recent findings from data and market research company Savanta show that 68 per cent of people opt to stay in hotels when taking trips. And they’re taking a lot of trips. According to Skyscanner survey results published in The Toronto Star, more than one-quarter of consumers say they’re


planning three or more getaways in 2024, up from just 17 per cent in 2023. In this dynamic environment, hotels that explore collaborative partnerships to broaden and customize their offerings are well-positioned to set themselves apart from the competition and nab larger amounts of market share.

Hotel and brand collaborations are especially common and popular among luxury hotels. Take the Hyatt-Fila collaboration that’s being unveiled this year in China. Named FILA HOUSE, the property delivers the Hyatt experience overlaid with Fila’s fashion-forward, athleisure touch. Visitors booking rooms there are getting the best of the worlds they appreciate— and that’s beneficial for both partners.

Another recent brand partnership was a bit more “surreal.” The St. Regis Toronto celebrated the return of Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) as an official hotel partner in 2022 by hosting an experiential “Daliland” film set exhibit on premises. The immersive activation saw The St. Regis Toronto’s hotel lobby transformed with a replica of the St. Regis suite used in the film, famously home to iconic surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí who lived there each winter for over 40 years at The St. Regis New York. The intention of the space, according to organizers, was to establish a relationship among guests, Salvador Dali himself, and cutting-edge AI technology to build an exciting and thought-provoking experience meant to spark creation, ideation, and conversation on the nature of Surrealism.

Not to mention bringing film festival visitors to the hotel through this unique and memorable brand partnership.

Without a doubt, the benefits of brand collaborations are extremely valuable. Innovative collaborations between hospitality brands like hotels and external partners from a variety of industries can significantly influence guest satisfaction and loyalty in several key ways.

First, they enable the hospitality brand to offer services that might have been hard to deliver or execute otherwise. For example, could The Standard Hotels have designed and manufactured a proprietary line of swimwear on its own? Perhaps, but it made more sense to join forces with Onia Swimwear and sell exclusive apparel in its hotel shops.

Secondly, brand partnerships foster the opportunity for increased guest personalization. It’s hardly a secret that personalization is a “must-do” for hospitality brands. Per McKinsey and Company’s research, 71 per cent of consumers expect brands to offer an individualized experience. Personalization can be made much simpler with a little assistance from an external partner, especially one who perhaps has more familiarity with technology. Taking advantage of personalization through technological solutions is key for the future of hotels.

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Thanks to AI and other technologies, hotels and brands can now predict and meet the changing needs of their guests with precision in real time. With this kind of technology, hotels can effectively tailor their services to each guest’s preferences, ultimately leading to higher satisfaction levels as guests feel respected and understood.

Of course, this puts a stressor on the brands involved in figuring out how to harness technology. One method is to utilize first-party data. By combining data insights, the brands can better see consumer behaviour patterns and explore emerging trends. Though this takes a great deal of trust (and ethical data privacy responsibility) between the brands, it allows them to remain at the forefront of serving exceptional experiences by combining insights.

For instance, a leading trend might not have made itself apparent within either brand’s market yet. Nevertheless, having an insider look derived from such sources as customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey scores, net-promoter survey (NPS) scores, repeat stay data, and online reviews can keep hotels from falling behind. It can also prepare them to uncover new trends specific to their market and take the first steps before their competitors do.

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Successful collaborations don’t just happen fortuitously, though. They happen when both brands are sincere and pragmatic from the get-go. Therefore, if you’re working on behalf of a hospitality industry entity like a hotel, you should be prepared to select potential “partner brands” carefully. In general, you’ll want to keep a few key criteria in mind.

Practice authenticity.

The masses—spurred by social media’s instantaneousness and ubiquitousness—are not afraid to call out what they see as phony or forced collaborations. To keep your brand reputation and sentiment high, only move ahead with partners who authentically align with your brand’s values, organizational mission, and target audiences.

Perform in-depth quality checks and assessments.

In the same vein, put all possible partners under a “quality” microscope. Does the brand’s image and industry presence maintain a minimum quality you approve of? Do the brand’s standards mirror your own? These considerations are very important to the public. If you’re a luxury hotel appealing to luxury travellers, you can’t afford to work with a brand that doesn’t have the same quality ethos.

Additionally, check up on the financial viability and standing of any potential branding partner while you’re in the exploration phase. Confirm that a brand is capable of fulfilling its commitments if you work together and even have a contingency plan in case of an emergency. Nothing can tarnish a brand collaboration faster than if one party drops the ball.

Look for partners who are wholeheartedly willing to collaborate.

Finally, seek an adaptable “we’re in this as a team” partner that wants to communicate and share with your brand. You shouldn’t have to feel like your collaboration is always an uphill battle. Instead, you want constant and compatible two-way communication to stay on top of industry opportunities, and someone who’s willing to adapt. Aim for a partner who not only complements your offerings but completes them.


With the right brand relationship, anything is possible— including being at the forefront of the trends we’re seeing emerge in hospitality right now. Consider the adaptation of digital channels, for example. In response to the AI and social media boom, many people have increased their expectations of hotel and brand digital offerings. These trends allow you to show how in touch your brand is by providing digitally-forward branded amenities, like a mobile app for digital check-ins, an online platform for ordering at on-site restaurants, or a chatbot to assist with reservation FAQs.

Another trend is the desire for attention-grabbing experiences. To gain attention, you might want to consider partnering with unique, or even outlandish, brands that elicit a reaction. By delivering unexpected moments within your branded collab, such as partnering with an exclusive beverage brand and implementing a line of signature cocktails, you’ll give people a reason to talk about your hotel.

Hotels haven’t fallen out of fashion. On the contrary, they’re gaining momentum while moving into the second half of the decade. And those that launch, test, measure, and improve their branded partnerships will be poised to capture attention and build a cadre of fans.


Kim Lawton is the founder and CEO of Enthuse Marketing Group, a purposedriven, women-owned agency specializing in elevating food, beverage, and lifestyle brands in the hospitality industry. Kim has 25 years of proven experiential operations and marketing experience spanning branded consumer products, and she has cross-functional expertise in both creative development and marketing campaign activation, measurement, and management.

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MasterBUILT Hotels

is a privately owned, Calgary-based hotel development, management and investment company. The company supports investors with all aspects of franchising, development and construction.

MasterBUILT also offers hotel management and asset management services as part of a turnkey solution.

In the ever-changing landscape of the Canadian hotel industry, MasterBUILT has been navigating challenges with its astute leadership and commitment to sustainable growth.

David Donaldson, president and CEO at MasterBUILT talks about MasterBUILT’s trajectory, development strategies, and its dedication to its workforce. Donaldson, who assumed his role at MasterBUILT approximately four years ago, brings a unique perspective to the table. A self-proclaimed “pandemic appointment,” Donaldson’s background in legal training and business administration adds a fresh dimension to the company’s leadership.

Under Donaldson’s stewardship, MasterBUILT has flourished, boasting a workforce of nearly 600 individuals and managing close to 30 hotels across Canada. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, MasterBUILT weathered the storm, keeping its hotels operational and ensuring the well-being of its employees.

Central to MasterBUILT’s growth strategy is its focus on development opportunities, particularly within the midscale and extended stay segments. Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham and ECHO Suites Extended Stay by Wyndham stand as flagship brands in this endeavour. Donaldson highlights the unique approach MasterBUILT takes in adapting these brands to the Canadian market. “Microtel is a little bit more upscale in Canada, and we build it slightly differently,” he explains. “ECHO is our extended stay product, and it also has a MasterBUILT-based definition of what our market is and what it does in this market.”

Looking ahead, MasterBUILT remains steadfast in its commitment to sustainable growth and investment. Donaldson emphasizes the importance of ensuring a reasonable return

on investment for stakeholders. “We need to see a return at the hotel or we’re not going to build it, and that’s true whether it’s our money or franchisees’ money,” he states.

Moreover, MasterBUILT recognizes the vital role of its employees in driving its success. In the wake of the pandemic, the company remains dedicated to providing a supportive work environment and competitive wages. “We need to ensure we’re good employers, we’re paying the right wages for the right job, and that we’re reinvesting in our talent base,” Donaldson asserts.


In the realm of hospitality development, MasterBUILT also distinguishes itself through its collaborative approach with franchisees. Donaldson says the company’s focus on fostering strong partnerships with franchise investors revolves around a


We need to be ensured we’re good employers, we’re paying the right wages for the right job, and that we’re reinvesting in our talent base.”

symbiotic relationship between the company and its franchise partners. “We work with Wyndham as the franchisor,” Donaldson explains, “then we do sell franchisees on their behalf and we build hotels for franchisees.”

This partnership extends beyond mere transactions, with MasterBUILT assuming a comprehensive role in managing the entire lifecycle of a hotel project. “We will manage everything from the development of the hotel to the construction of a hotel or the ECHO product if it’s that,” Donaldson elaborates. “And then the actual operations and what we call asset management, which is making sure that the investors have information about how their investment is doing, how it’s performing, what we’re going to do with banking, what we’re going to do with dividend policy, etc.”

This holistic approach underscores MasterBUILT’s commitment to ensuring the success

and profitability of each franchise investment. Moreover, it reflects the company’s ethos of transparency and accountability, values that are integral to its operations. “We’re a large enough company now where we have infrastructure that makes it look like an investment rather than a partnership,” Donaldson asserts, highlighting the professionalism and efficiency with which MasterBUILT manages its franchise relationships.

As MasterBUILT continues to expand its footprint in the Canadian hospitality market, its collaborative ethos with franchisees stands as a testament to its enduring success and unwavering dedication to shared prosperity.

As MasterBUILT continues to carve its path in the Canadian hospitality industry, its commitment to innovation, sustainable growth, and employee well-being serves as a beacon of resilience and progress.

MasterBUILT holds the Canadian licensing rights for both Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham and the all-new ECHO Suites Extended Stay by Wyndham.

ECHO Suites Extended Stay by Wyndham is a purposebuilt, all-new construction property, designed for operational efficiency. The 124-room property is approximately 50,000 square feet, with an average room size of 300 square feet, built on two acres of land. The hotel offers a selection of both single-queen and two-queen studio suites with kitchens. The hotel’s amenities include a lobby, fitness centre, and 24/7 guest laundry facilities. There are two main audiences for ECHO as an extended-stay hotel: (1) Corporate travellers who may be in town for the duration of a project or a short-term contract; and (2) Those seeking transitional or temporary long-term housing. ECHO Suites could be seen as having the dual benefit of being both hospitality-based and/or housing-based.

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham next-generation modular 76-room design represents the next step for the midscale hotel brand that rivals upper-midscale properties in guest satisfaction and Revenue per Available Room. With a new streamlined design, Microtel is the lowest cost, highest quality mid-scale hotel on the market. The floor plan has been strategically devised to optimize construction efficiencies and requires only 1.4 acres of land. The hotel amenities include a fitness centre, pool with waterslide, lobby bar and a variety of room types.

MasterBUILT owns investment slivers as well as owning hotels outright. The company is fully committed to the success of its products!

Contact MasterBUILT today for more information about available development opportunities at



The Canadian hotel industry is evolving rapidly, influenced by technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, and broader economic and environmental considerations. Here are some of the trends shaping the industry today as researched by STAY Magazine as of Q2 2024. These trends highlight the industry’s push towards more sustainable, efficient, and personalized services, driven by technological innovation and changing guest expectations.

Technological Advancements Environmental Considerations Changing Consumer Preferences TRENDS & TECH
54 SUMMER 2024

1. Integration of AI and advanced technologies

• Personalized guest experiences

• Operational efficiency through automation and data analytics, AI helps streamline hotel operations, from front desk services like check-in and check-out to back-end processes such as inventory management and maintenance scheduling.

• Dynamic pricing: AI-driven dynamic pricing models allow hotels to adjust room rates in real time based on demand, competition, and other market factors.

• Enhanced guest services: AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants provide guests with instant access to information and services, from booking reservations to answering questions about the hotel and local area. These digital assistants are available 24/7, improving service accessibility and guest satisfaction.

• Predictive analytics: Hotels use AI for predictive analytics to forecast demand, identify trends, and make informed decisions about marketing, staffing, and other aspects of hotel management. This helps hotels anticipate guest needs and market shifts, allowing them to stay ahead of the competition.

• Sustainability efforts: AI technologies are also being used to enhance hotels’ sustainability practices. For example, smart energy management systems can optimize the use of electricity and water in real time, significantly reducing waste and operational costs.

• Customized marketing and loyalty programs: AI enables hotels to analyze guest data and behaviour to create highly targeted marketing campaigns and loyalty programs. This not only improves guest retention but also attracts new guests by offering personalized deals and promotions.

2. Adoption of HyperCommerce:

HyperCommerce refers to the use of comprehensive, datadriven online commerce systems that integrate various aspects of the guest experience, from discovery and booking to post-stay engagement. HyperCommerce might include:

• Comprehensive integration of customer relationship management (CRM) systems, property management systems (PMS), and online booking engines.

• Early and enhanced interaction with potential guests. By leveraging social media, conversational interfaces (such as chatbots), and other digital platforms.

• Improvements in operational efficiency by automating routine tasks, such as booking confirmations and check-in procedures, freeing up staff to focus on more value-added services. Additionally, real-time data analytics help in optimizing resource allocation and reducing waste.

• Driving revenue growth through increased bookings and higher guest spend during their stay.

3. Sustainability as a core strategy:

Environmental and social sustainability are becoming key differentiators, with hotels investing in eco-friendly practices and technologies to meet consumer demand for responsible travel.

4. Demand for personalized experiences:

Guests are increasingly expecting personalized services, prompting hotels to utilize data analytics and guest profiling to tailor their offerings.


5. Revamping offerings to match the airline model:

Hotels are revamping their offerings to match the airline model, a strategy that aims to enhance the overall guest experience while creating additional revenue streams. This trend involves integrating services and amenities that go beyond the traditional hotel stay, mirroring the “add-on” services model popularized by airlines. Here are some examples of how hotels are adopting this approach:

• Bundled packages: Just as airlines offer packages that include extra legroom, priority boarding, or checked bags, hotels are bundling services such as spa treatments, dining credits, or tours into their booking process.

• Loyalty programs and tiered benefits: Hotels are enhancing their loyalty programs to offer tiered benefits based on the level of membership. These benefits can include room upgrades, late checkouts, exclusive access to amenities, or special discounts at hotel restaurants and services.

• Collaborations with local attractions: Hotels are forming partnerships with local attractions, restaurants, and event organizers to offer guests special packages or discounts.

• Enhanced digital experience: Hotels are now offering digital conveniences, such as mobile check-in and check-out, digital room keys, and real-time notifications about room readiness or hotel events.

• Additional transportation services: Hotels are increasingly providing their own transportation services. This can include shuttle services to local attractions, airports, or even car rental services directly from the hotel, offering guests a seamless travel experience.

October 29-30,

#WCLC2024 Save the Date!
2024 Hyatt Regency Vancouver, BC

6. Dynamic adaptation in pricing:

Hotels are adopting more flexible pricing strategies, using data to make realtime adjustments based on demand, seasonal shifts, and economic trends.

7. Personalized hospitality:

Moving beyond generic services to offer guests unique, memorable experiences tailored to their individual preferences, from room settings to dining.

8. Impact of rising interest rates on property values:

Economic conditions, including rising interest rates, are affecting hotel property values and transactions, with sustainability becoming an increasingly important factor.


9. Adaptation to changing workforce dynamics:

Hotels are actively adapting to changing workforce dynamics, influenced by generational shifts, evolving employee expectations, and the broader impact of technology on the workplace. Here’s how they’re responding to these changes:

• Embracing flexibility and remote work: Hotels are now more open to offering roles with flexible hours and the possibility of remote work for positions that don’t require physical presence, such as marketing, reservations management, and some administrative functions

• Creating a culture of feedback and growth: Gen Z and Millennials in the workforce place a high value on continuous learning and feedback. Hotels are adapting by fostering a culture that encourages regular feedback, constructive criticism, and open communication. This involves more frequent performance reviews, mentorship programs, and opportunities for professional development to help employees grow within their roles and the organization.

• Leveraging technology to support staff: This includes adopting automation and AI for repetitive tasks, such as housekeeping scheduling and guest communication, allowing staff to focus on more meaningful guest interactions and reducing the strain of understaffing

• Enhancing employee well-being programs: Hotels are enhancing their employee well-being programs. This includes access to mental health resources, fitness and wellness programs, flexible scheduling to support worklife balance, and ensuring a supportive and inclusive work environment.

• Adapting training and onboarding processes: To cater to a digitally native workforce, hotels are updating their training and onboarding processes to be more interactive, engaging, and technology-driven. This involves using online learning platforms, virtual reality for immersive learning experiences, and mobile apps for on-the-go training.

• Offering competitive benefits and work-life balance: Hotels are revising their benefits packages to include more competitive offerings, such as higher wages, health insurance, retirement plans, and opportunities for career advancement. Recognizing the importance of work-life balance, they are also offering more paid time off, flexible scheduling options, and support for personal pursuits and family commitments.

58 SUMMER 2024


Entrepreneurial spirit, a strategic focus on the guest experience, and prioritizing relationships with franchisees

In conversation with Marc Staniloff, president of Superior Lodging, Staniloff shares the remarkable journey and strategic vision that has propelled Superior Lodging to the forefront of the hospitality industry in Canada. Beginning in 1991 with a modest familyowned motel in Calgary, Staniloff’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited by the prospect of bringing the Super 8 franchise to Western Canada, a venture that has since grown into a network of over 240 hotels under Superior’s stewardship.

Staniloff’s approach to growth is deeply rooted in partnership and innovation. “We were the only franchise company [in Canada] doing that,” he says, referring to his unique model of taking equity stakes in hotel deals. This strategy not only differentiated Superior Lodging from its competitors but also fostered a sense of trust and cooperation with franchisees, encouraging them to undertake multiple projects with the brand.

Under Staniloff’s leadership, Superior Lodging has not just expanded in quantity but also in the diversity of its offerings. In 2015, a pivotal partnership with private equity enabled the acquisition of the Travelodge master franchise, broadening Superior’s portfolio. This move was further augmented by the recent addition of brands such as Ramada, Wingate, Hawthorn Suites, and Wyndham Garden, marking Superior’s entry into mid-scale and upper mid-scale markets. “We envision building some new ones, converting on those brands, and possibly putting equity in the deals,” Staniloff explains.

Despite the challenges posed by economic fluctuations, rising construction costs, and the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, Staniloff remains bullish on the industry’s future. He attributes Superior’s resilience to its strong relationships with franchisees and partners, as well as its strategic focus on essential aspects of the guest experience, such as cleanliness, comfort, and connectivity.

Looking ahead, Staniloff is eager to connect with potential franchisees, emphasizing the opportunity and rewards of entering the hospitality business with Superior Lodging. “It’s a fun business,” he remarks, his enduring passion and optimism for the industry is unwavering. His vision for Superior Lodging is not just about expanding the brand’s footprint but also about cultivating lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with franchisees, setting the stage for continued success and innovation in the hospitality landscape.

In a career that spans over three decades, Staniloff’s journey from a single motel to a leader in Canadian hospitality exemplifies the power of vision, partnership, and adaptability. As Superior Lodging continues to grow and evolve, its story remains a compelling testament to the enduring values of entrepreneurship and collaboration in building the future of Canadian hospitality.


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