Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 11/10/2010 (2691 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Move over, Leo Ledohowski.
There are new Winnipeg hoteliers moving in to claim their share of a larger local hotel market.
Make no mistake, Canad Inns, the company Ledohowski founded and remains president and chairman of, continues to be the largest hotel chain in Manitoba.
For the past decade, Canad Inns seemed to be responsible for most of the new properties (or conversions) coming onto the market. But that's no longer the case.
Two new hotels near the airport and Polo Park, which are in varying stages of completion, are being developed by a couple of smaller operators. Both of them have been active in the Winnipeg and southern Manitoba scene for many years with solid financial backing.
John Owens, who owns the Best Western Pembina Inns & Suites, is building the 100-room MainStay Suites extended-stay hotel on King Edward Street south of Sargent Avenue, scheduled to open next month.
Meantime, Mike Sapozhnik who owns the Quality Inn on Pembina Highway, the Dakota Hotel and the Howard Johnson Express Inn on Portage Avenue near the Perimeter Highway, is building a 126-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott on Ellice Avenue east of Empress Street, which is scheduled to open next June.
The $12-million MainStay and $18-million Marriott are expensive projects for the developers, but both say they believe the market can bear additional properties.
"I think there is still room for more hotels in the airport region," Owens said.
For his part, Sapozhnik is so confident that he plans to eventually build a second hotel beside the Marriott, which will eventually share the swimming pool/waterslide that will be part of the Marriott development.
And while Canad Inns became king of the suburban nightclub/lounge scene and built a mini-empire around that success, these two new hotels will both be limited service — strictly a "heads and beds" business.
Both Owens and Sapozhnik are searching for restaurant developers to build on their respective hotel properties on land they have assembled specifically for a third-party restaurant.
Owens has built and sold Super 8 Motels in Brandon and Portage and has also been in the restaurant business, which his family continues to operate in Brandon with two A & W locations.
He is approaching his first foray into a larger format with an international brand flag and has the confidence gained from years of experience.
There are always risks when introducing new products, but this time that risk is compounded by the fact that MainStay's extended-stay format is fairly new to the Winnipeg market. (Each room will contain a stovetop, dishwater, full-sized refrigerator and kitchen utensils with tiered housekeeping services and room rates depending on the length of stay.)
Place Louis Riel caters to that market, but Owens' new property will be only the first MainStay Suites hotel in the country, part of the Choice hotel chain, one of the largest in the world.
Owens said he expects half of its business will come from guests requiring extended-stay accommodations.
"We sure hope the concept works," Owens said.
"We think it will be able to service a need that is not currently being met."
While there are additional costs involved, flying a brand name flag means taking advantage of a larger marketing net.
"We are certainly going to rely on their expertise," Owens said.
Running a mini hotel chain means creating management systems that work and in his case, Owens has brought in an equity partner/manager in the person of Fred Hrehirchuk, former manager of the Viscount Gort Hotel and a former Canad Inns executive.
"I'm really excited about the property," Hrehirchuk said.
"The extended-stay concept has been very popular in the U.S."
Heather Soule, a Choice Hotels spokeswoman based at the company headquarters in Washington, said the company is keen to introduce the brand into Canada.
"We believe Canada as a whole is short on lodgings and the kind of travelling and resource industry that goes on is well-suited for the extended-stay concept."
For Sapozhnik, he'll be happy to get a piece of the family market.
"We did a professional market study," he said. "We're very confident."
One of the reasons he has such strength in his conviction is because Marriott Hotels has such a loyal following among quality hotel patrons and his will be the first in Manitoba.
The reputation comes at least partly because Marriott demands attention to detail in the design and construction of its franchised locations.
"It is not easy building a Marriott," Sapozhnik said. "They have very strict requirements. Customer-safety considerations are extremely important."
Sapozhnik already owns 135 rooms in the city in his three existing hotels. In addition to the 126 rooms he's bringing on the market with the Marriott, he's planning a 50-room expansion for the Dakota and another 125-room property beside the Marriott.
"We think the Winnipeg market is very strong," he said.
Jim Baker, executive director of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said these new hotel properties that have been built throughout the city may be a sign of the times.
"Today, travellers are looking for creature comfort and there is a willingness to pay for it," he said.
So while the cheap road-side motels are becoming extinct, Ledohowski and Canada Inns built up a market in Winnipeg for more comfortable, but still affordable, lodgings.
Now, the next wave of operators are moving in to take advantage of Ledohowski's trail-blazing.
Stable occupancy but low rates
THIS city has long held the dubious distinction of having one of the lowest room revenue rates in the country and a stable — though not particularly high — occupancy rate.
The Manitoba Hotel Association says there are 6,200 rooms within the Perimeter Highway.
But even with the addition of many new properties over the last decade — including the Sheraton Four Points, Humphry Inn (formerly Hampton Inn), the Clarion Inn, the Greenwood Inn, the Inn at the Forks, Canad Inn's Club Regent Casino Hotel, Canad Inns' expanded Polo Park property and the Sandman Hotel and Suites — the city-wide average occupancy rate has remained at 65 to 70 per cent.
Travel Manitoba says 60 per cent of the city's hotel patrons come from within the province.
Jim Baker, president of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said even those in-province travellers are inclined to spend a few bucks to stay in comfortable lodgings, thus a solid market exists for the mid-tier properties that have been sprouting up.