Walk into the lobby of Delta Hotel’s Marriott in downtown Calgary, and you’ll find décor and design suited to an upscale Calgary home: a stunning Hudson’s Bay-inspired rug, featuring wide stripes in varying shades of blue and indigo is sprawled across whitewashed oak floors; surveyor-style lamps stand like sentries, overlooking wood-framed, birch-tinted chairs and a grey fabric sectional accented with golden yellow throw pillows. High up above, an upside down, frosted-white canoe hangs suspended in mid-air – a soft, calming glow emanating from the near-transparent skin stretched across its frame.
This is the first complete makeover undertaken by Delta in more than a decade. The carefully redesigned space was motivated by a desire to attract locals and travel-weary guests alike to Delta’s pre-eminent downtown location.
When guests arrive, they are greeted with tasteful and elegant Canadiana-inspired design and décor. Moving into the space, guests can discover a key component of this redesign: the hotel’s desire to place food and beverage at centre stage. For instance, the brand-new Shoe and Canoe Public House and Restaurant, is a lounge that reflects a blend of new and old Canadiana, a recurring theme infused throughout the hotel – from the reception desk to each individual guest room.
The focus on local is strategic
Perhaps, a more apt description for the hotel’s new style is ‘Calgar-iana’.
“Our big concept for the Delta was based on the notion of Calgary as ever-changing, which you can look at in so many different ways,” says Adèle Rankin, principal of CHIL Interior Design, the hospitality design studio of B+H Architects.
From the local weather, see-sawing from ice and snow one minute to balmy chinooks the next, to the cyclical boom economy, the city is constantly shifting from one state to the next, Ms. Rankin says.
The new design, a fusion of rope-knit textiles lining feature walls, all interspersed with plenty of wood and leather, is an intentional “tip of the Stetson” to the city’s heritage and cowboy roots. In fact, the $27-million makeover – part of a larger effort by parent company Marriott International to update its Delta brand – echoes recent industry trends that have seen hotels purposefully redesigned to emphasize all that is local.
By adopting this trend, the hotelier is upping its game in a marketplace of rapidly expanding choices that includes not only traditional, full-service competitors, but also boutique hotels and Airbnbs – both of which typically evince a strong emphasis on locality.
“There are a lot of different products out there,” says Karyn Faryna, interior design manager for Marriott International’s Classic Premium Brands, who was tasked with developing and implementing the overhaul.
Indeed, a driving aim of Marriott’s initiative is to differentiate Delta from the pack, an advantage it believes will directly benefit the bottom line of its ownership group. “There’s always a positive uptick in profitability,” Ms. Faryna says.
She explains that Marriott has more than 30 brands, each one appealing to a different group of consumers. Examples include Homes & Villas for an Airbnb-style experience, and the Autograph Collection for travellers seeking more of a boutique-style stay.
Redesign, refocus and capture more market share is hotelier’s aim
New design motifs aside, the latest upgrades are meant to appeal to Delta’s core clients: business travellers seeking a “streamlined experience … who want to get the job done and get out,” Ms. Faryna says. These key customers of Delta are also increasingly seeking an authentic experience. “They certainly don’t want a cookie-cutter look.”
Much of the four-star Calgary hotel has been redesigned with this in mind, with each guest room slightly different from the next – and all featuring local artwork.
“It really was the perfect time to renovate not only because it was needed,” Ms. Faryna says, but because the hotel’s previous style was outdated, its materials worn out. This remodel enabled us to capture our new design strategy for the Delta brand, which is under way across North America.
That the Marriott is embarking on such an ambitious makeover strategy for its Delta line is hardly surprising, says Ray Wong, vice-president of data operations for the data solutions team at Altus Group Ltd.
Retooling hotels is a means “to increase or maintain revenue,” he says. “The hotel sector is very competitive, and for hotel companies to succeed, they need to offer a variety of choices” that appeal to the changing tastes of customers. Increasingly, that includes exceptional culinary experiences – from vegan menu options to local microbrews, craft cocktails and more.
Mr. Wong says hotel operators have become very good at improving efficiency and amenities over the past decade, especially after the 2008-09 recession, which hit the industry very hard.
The formula seems to be working. Hotels are thriving, especially in Canada’s west, according to a recent industry-outlook report compiled by CMRE Hotels. For hotels throughout Western Canada, it found that the revenue per available room (RevPAR) – the key measure of profitability – grew by 7.2 per cent last year, compared with just 4.7 per cent in Central Canada.
Within those statistics, the city of Calgary leads the way, with its RevPAR up 7.5 per cent. Business travel also grew by 2.3 per cent in Alberta last year and is forecast to grow by 2.2 per cent this year. Tourism follows close behind, with overnight stays forecast to grow by 2 per cent.
Redesign makes for an easier sell for travel operators
According to Yves Marceau of G Adventures, a leading provider of small-group tours, the redesigned Delta does grab the attention of tour operators.
“They’re on the right track,” says Mr. Marceau, vice-president of product development for the Canadian company. He adds that tourists are increasingly seeking “authentic experiences,” including those with an emphasis on food and drink.
Ms. Rankin says that this focus on authenticity is what positions the Shoe and Canoe Public House and Restaurant as the heart of the hotel’s new design. Besides the menu, which includes a locally brewed house beer, the Shoe and Canoe unfolds organically from the hotel’s reception, a design element Ms. Rankin refers to as the “Path of Discovery” that has eliminated the “compartmentalized” feel of the previous layout.
“We focused on blowing out the space to make it flow and allow people to discover as they see fit,” Ms. Rankin says.
The theme also pays homage to Hudson’s Bay Company explorer David Thompson – counted among the first Europeans to visit the region more than 200 years ago.
Ms. Rankin says the motif of exploration works to pique the curiosity of guests and locals alike and inspire them to discover all that awaits inside – from the restaurant and brew pub to the intimate lounge presided over by a faintly glowing canoe.
Indeed, ease of access and comfort are redesign hallmarks of the Shoe and Canoe and the entire Delta chain. Grab a coffee, order a beer, nosh on an appetizer, enjoy a full-course meal – or not. The whole point of the Delta makeover is to create a relaxed atmosphere that allows guests and locals to enjoy and experience without feeling the need to set a purpose or stick to an agenda. Ms. Rankin adds that for downtown hotels, which typically cater to the business crowd, this is an atmosphere that has been “traditionally difficult for hotels to provide.”