Plans for a new hotel in Chilliwack will help address a deepening shortage of rooms in the region as travel recovers from the damper imposed by COVID-19.
“There was a return to travel and tourism across British Columbia in 2022 and a resulting resurgence in the demand for hotel rooms,” says Jeff Krivoshen, CEO of P.R. Hotels Ltd. in announcing plans for a dual-branded Fairfield Inn and Suites & Town and Towne Place Suites by Marriott off Highway 1 at Lickman Road in Chilliwack. “Building a hotel is a significant investment. We chose this location because we see promise in Chilliwack and are committed to growing with the community for the long term.”
Built and operated by P.R. Hotels and Meridian Development Corp. of Saskatoon, the hotel is part of Fraser Gateway Centre, a new mixed-use development Denciti Development Corp. is undertaking on the 12.4-acre site, which it acquired in 2021.
The southern portion of the site will be commercial, with plans calling for a service station and family restaurant in addition to the existing Tim Hortons and private liquor store. The northern portion will feature a light-industrial business park with up to 25 small and large bay warehouse units.
While the warehouse units will address a shortage of industrial space at one the last major undeveloped intersections in the Fraser Valley, the hotel space is also much needed.
Speakers at the Western Canadian Lodging Conference last fall called out the Fraser Valley as an area that could benefit from new construction.
“There are markets in the Fraser Valley that are just dying for some new product,” said Carrie Russell, senior managing partner with advisory services firm HVS Canada in Vancouver.
Chilliwack was among the markets she identified, thanks to the acquisition and conversion of several older properties to alternative uses such as low-income housing, and Hope, which has plenty of older motels but lacks modern, mid-tier product.
More recently, a report accounting firm MNP prepared for Destination Vancouver this spring noted a diminishing supply of hotel rooms in Metro Vancouver, jeopardizing growth of the region’s tourism sector, and in turn, the provincial economy.
While the city of Vancouver has lost approximately 2,000 rooms over the past 20 years, the pace of loss has been greater throughout the region.
MNP reported that Metro Vancouver’s stock of hotel rooms peaked in 2011 at 14,424 rooms across 94 properties, but that was down to 10,002 rooms across 85 properties in 2022.
“Metro Vancouver’s infrastructure is not keeping up in delivering on our global profile,” Royce Chwin, Destination Vancouver’s president and CEO said when the report was released, noting that cities of a comparable profile have been steadily building their hotels stock.
“[The] lack of available hotel rooms will make visiting Vancouver even more expensive, and the city will be less competitive in attracting major conferences, large sporting events and leisure group travel,” Chwin said, noting that the city and region is set to play host to major international events including the Invictus Games, Grey Cup and, in 2026, the FIFA World Cup – the world’s largest single sporting event.
Business travel is also on the rise, with many observers expecting a normalization of conditions by 2024.
While not a silver bullet, the 150-room hotel will be the largest in Chilliwack when it opens in 2025. It represents an upgrade from the Best Western-flagged hotel that formerly stood on the site but closed during the pandemic.
“[It] will bring extended stay into the Chilliwack market that doesn’t exist currently, and will bring a Marriott to the Fraser Valley,” Krivoshen said, describing the dual-branded format as “very efficient.”
The property’s 150 rooms will see 90 allocated to the Fairfield brand, which will focus on serving the short-term and leisure market, while 60 rooms will be allocated to the Towne Place Suites banner, an extended-stay brand that features in-room kitchenettes.
“We can market as two independent hotels gives the travelling public a couple of different options to go with,” Krivoshen said. “We can still use the same employee base, same housekeeping core, same front desk, just service [the market] with two hotels, one general manager, one sales department.”
The project in Chilliwack follows P.R. Hotels’ and Meridian’s completion last December of a 124-room Delta-branded hotel attached to the Cascades Casino Delta on the former Delta Town & Country Inn site.