In May 2019, after 30 years in the hotel industry, Atlanta-based hotel owner, operator and developer, Hotel Equities (HE) opened its first Canadian office in Edmonton in order to support its growth in the country. It was a natural next step for the company and came weeks after HE announced a strategic partnership with Kelowna B.C.-based Braemar Group to operate six hotels located in B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta. The portfolio offered a combined total guestroom count of 596 and growing, with future development projects in the pipeline. HE also penned a strategic partnership with APX Hotels to operate eight hotels in Alberta.
“We sit on three or four Marriott boards and a couple of Hilton boards and through those relationships we saw the brands were stepping up their game and growing,” says Joe Reardon, HE’s Chief Development Officer. “We felt like Canada was an interesting, wide space for us that [we hadn’t considered before]. But we wanted to understand the social and economic responsibilities of doing business in Canada and what that looks like for us.”
The company has grown significantly since entering the Canadian market in early 2018, with two hotels. Today it boasts 24 properties (20 per cent of its entire hotel portfolio) with 2,779 rooms on Canadian soil.
“In addition to investing in a new office location, we made significant investments into scaling all departments, such as ops, revenue management, sales and marketing, human resources and learning and development,” says Reardon. “With the infrastructure to support our continued growth, we’re also interested in joint-venture-acquisition opportunities and in-country investments.”
HE’s first big move in Canada was the acqui-sition of two Marriott hotels in Edmonton — a Fairfield Inn & Suites and a TownePlace Suites. “They’d been open for less than a year and were not performing well,” he says. “So, we stepped in and took over those first two Marriott properties.”
A new development deal in Ajax, Ont. followed, as well as an additional Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott property near the Edmonton airport. “We dialed into our strategy and agreed if we were going to operate in Canada, we needed to have a Canadian team with boots on the ground that understood the landscape of the industry in Canada.”
HE recently landed a deal to build a dual-branded Marriott Conference Centre with a Four Points and Residence Inn in Langley, B.C. and Reardon predicts the company will have more than 50 hotels in its Canadian portfolio by the end of 2020, with much of that growth focused on secondary and tertiary markets.
“There’s still room for us to grow in Mississauga [Ont.],” he says. “We’ve got a couple of opportunities we’re working on right now that would add close to 600 additional rooms to our portfolio.”