Why the Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil’s new look is turning heads

Located just on the outskirts of downtown Montréal in the south shore suburb of Longueuil sits one of Holiday Inn’s shining beacons for the future. Even during the pandemic, the recently renovated Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil is turning heads. Featuring an all-new modern look aimed at guest comfort, the hotel and its amenities are geared toward business travelers and vacationers alike.

Defined by its stunning and expansive lobby, the Holiday Inn Longueuil is the kind of place that reaches out and pulls you in. Open-space communal workstations. Spacious meeting rooms. A tech savvy Business Centre.

And if the hotel itself is not enough, its location could not be a better fit for visitors and Canadians alike. Nature lovers can visit the Biodome, Biosphere and the Montreal’s famous Botanical Gardens, while the Montréal Casino and Bell Centre offer more entertainment-type options. Visitors also can explore historic Old Montreal and the thrills of La Ronde, the city’s Six Flags amusement park.

To get an inside look at the renovation and what it is like establishing protocols in today’s pandemic defined landscape, we sat down with Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil GM Antonio D’Alesio.

Give us a snapshot of the Holiday brand?
Holiday Inn is one of the largest and most recognized hotel chains in the world. Founded in 1952, the chain now is owned by IHG Group, a multinational hospitality company headquartered in the UK. As a subsidiary of IHG, each Holiday Inn participates in the parent company’s environmental sustainability system. The system helps hotels reduce energy, water, and waste by allowing them to measure and manage this environmental impact.

What type of consumers are you targeting?
The Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil targets a mix of business travelers, as well as vacationing couples and families. The City of Montréal is host to numerous festivals and events during the summer season, which therefore attracts many tourists and music enthusiasts who utilize our services. In addition, our many meeting and event rooms attract many local businesses, as well as individuals looking to plan corporate or personal events.

How does the overall design of your place cater to what today’s consumers are looking for?
The Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil recently was renovated with an all-new modern look designed specifically for the comfort of our guests, including a stunning and expansive lobby perfect for relaxing and connecting with other guests, an open-space communal workstation for catching up on e-mails, and a fitness center and pool area for those who want to get some exercise in during their stay.

The rooms themselves have been completely redesigned as well, and include all the comforts needed for a great stay. The recent redesign of our hotel was done with one focus: the complete comfort of our guests.

All Holiday Inn locations are different, but they all follow a certain “code” to guarantee a level of cleanliness, services and comfort that we are known for.

What kind of adjustments have you made (are you planning) to make in order to cater to your customers in this new landscape?
Many adjustments will need to be made to accommodate guests today. For now, one of the major changes we have put in place is the total minimization of our HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning system). We have been partnering with an organization called BrainBox AI for over a year and it is helping us with this.

We originally began working with BrainBox AI for its artificial intelligence (AI) technology that it applies to HVAC systems in order to dramatically decrease the energy consumption of our HVAC system without compromising the comfort of guests. However, in light of the pandemic, BrainBox AI was able to automatically switch gears. It now is focusing on decreasing the use of the HVAC system to the bare minimum in order to help decrease our expenses during this shutdown time.

Upon re-opening, which will be happening imminently, BrainBox AI will support us with another algorithm, which dramatically increases the amount of fresh air intake (based on the capacity of our system) to ensure healthy fresh air circulates within the building.

More and more research is coming out about the potential airborne propagation of COVID-19. This algorithm developed by BrainBox AI helps minimize the airborne propagation by implementing two key recommendations outlined by the CDC (increased fresh air intake and temperature and humidity control). What is great about BrainBox AI is that it is autonomous, so all of these algorithms are deployed, and changes are made without any involvement from my end.

We are also catering to our customers in this new landscape by implementing social distancing measures, hand-sanitizing stations, proper signage and PPE. All of our staff will be wearing a combination of masks or visors and gloves. Guests also will be required to wear masks while circulating in all public areas, once in their room or meeting room these can be removed.

What kind of conversations about the “new normal” are you having with your employees? Customers?
Intercontinental Hotels and Holiday Inn have created a “Culture of Clean,” which includes cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas in the hotel public areas and guest rooms. Our front line staff was trained just prior to reopening to ensure full compliance with the program.

Our guests will be given the “Clean Promise” upon arrival. The promise states our commitment to a high level of cleanliness. If our guests signal an issue, we promise to make it right. Unfortunately, some of our services—food and beverage—will not be available. This means many of our employees will not be called back to work in the immediate future.

What is your short-term strategy? Long-term?
Our short-term strategy revolves mainly around the measures outlined in the question above. The comfort and safety of our guests is what is most important to us and we would not put that at risk for any reason.

The long-term will be guided in many ways by the regulations set forth by our governing bodies, as well as the spread and contamination rates of the virus in our province of Québec, Canada and neighboring countries. The management of budgets and expenses is something that most building owners are looking at very actively right now.

I believe that in the long-term assessing the value of a building and measuring it against a current operational budget might reveal how much value can be gained by making smart business investments into technological modifications.

Our work with BrainBox AI has allowed us to benefit significantly in the last few months from impactful energy savings during the crisis and pre-COVID, which has aided in making our budgets a little more flexible.

More specifically, pre-COVID, we were able to decrease our total energy spend per month by about 30% while increasing the occupant comfort. I believe that in the long-term assessing the value of a building and measuring it against a current operational budget might reveal how much value can be gained by making smart business investments into technological modifications.

What is the best piece of advice you can offer to other brands on how to deal with what is happening right now?
My best piece of advice would be to prioritize cleanliness, as this is key to reassuring guests during their visit.

Is there a location that really shows how the brand interacts with the community and customers? One of your favorites?
The new Holiday Inn & Suites Downtown Montréal Ouest is beautiful and located right in the heart of the city. The hotel is located in Montréal’s business district and within walking distance to many big corporations, academic institutions and touristic attractions.

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our operations. The biggest item on my to-do list is preparing for the reopening of the property and welcoming of guests.

Walk us through how and why your locations are designed the way they are?
All Holiday Inn locations are different, but they all follow a certain “code” to guarantee a level of cleanliness, services and comfort that we are known for. In fact, cleanliness and service standards are heavily centralized and monitored frequently to ensure guests have the same experience across properties.

Take us through your construction and design strategy.
We began the renovation project at the Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil with our common areas and meeting spaces, and then proceeded to renovating all of our guest rooms. The process took approximately two years.

Give us a rundown of your market’s layout.
The Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil is located in a suburban area just outside downtown Montreal. The hotel is located at a 10-minute drive or 40-minute walk from Longueuil metro (subway) transit station, enabling guests to be downtown in less than 10 minutes. Our competitors include major chain hotels, as well as independent brands and Airbnb type accommodation options.

What is the biggest issue today related to the construction side of the business?
The biggest issue we face relates to the control of costs and the respecting of project timelines.

Talk about sustainability. What are you doing?
One of the greatest sustainability projects we have put in place in the last year has been the implementation of BrainBox AI. With an average decrease in energy consumption of 30% per month, not only were we able to decrease our costs, but also significantly decrease our carbon footprint.

What type of opportunities do you see moving ahead?
The most major opportunity we see in the short-term is the return of corporate travel, which is responsible for a significant portion of our business.

What trends are you seeing/expecting?
Considering COVID-19, a big trend we are expecting is an increase in local (provincial and national) tourism and guests traveling to our location by car.

What is today’s consumer looking for?
Today’s consumer is looking for value for price paid, great service and safety.

What is the biggest item on your to-do list right now?
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our operations. The biggest item on my to-do list is preparing for the reopening of the property and welcoming of guests.

Tell us what makes your brand so unique?
The Holiday Inn represents a comfortable, affordable stay in over 1,100 locations around the world.

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Story by Michael J. Pallerino, editor of Commercial Construction & Renovation magazine. Over the past 30-plus years, he has won numerous awards, including the “Jesse H. Neal Editorial Achievement Award,” recognized as the Pulitzer Prize for business-to-business magazines. He can be reached at mikep@ccr-mag.com.

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Antonio D’Alesio, GM, Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil

One-on-One with…
Antonio D’Alesio, GM
Holiday Inn Montréal Longueuil

Describe a typical day.
My day consists mostly of answering and sending e-mails, following-up on specific projects, budgeting, forecasting and other administrative work. I am also quite active in interacting with staff and customers, supervising my team when necessary and helping out wherever needed.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I feel most rewarded when I meet my guests’ service goals.

What was the best advice you ever received?
“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” “Always be prepared. You never know…”

What is the best thing a client ever said to you?
“‘You’re a lifesaver.” — After I had returned their forgotten passport at the airport.

How do you like to spend your down time?
Spending time with my wife and son, and playing hockey with friends.

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