“March 16,” Sheheryar Javaid says while shaking his head, “was such a crazy day.”
The project director for the new Hyatt Place Toronto/Mississauga Centre recalls the moment when COVID-19 reality hit his family’s ambitious project, halting it in its tracks after years of development, investment, and sacrifice.
“We were really pushing hard after all of those years and then all of that stopped,” Javaid notes with lament.
In 2014, his father had purchased the land that would become the foundation for Ontario’s first Hyatt Place, a 123-room hotel that was scheduled to open in spring 2020. Then the coronavirus pandemic slammed the global tourism industry with ferocity. After weeks of being stalled, the Hyatt Place got back to completing its finishing touches. As it did, Javaid and his father saw something they did not expect at the height of the panic: opportunity and a clear competitive advantage.
“We were supposed to open in the first week of April but COVID derailed that plan. You have to accept it. Thank god Canadians dealt with the situation very nicely, because it didn’t set us back too much,” says Javaid Akhatr, who has worked as a chief financial officer for investment groups that have launched notable hotels such as Bulgari franchises in Paris and Dubai. (Akhtar’s family has a tradition where a father’s first name becomes the surname of the son.) The Hyatt Place is his first hotel as lead investor. “We could have held off until next spring but there comes a time where you have to say you can’t sit on the fence any longer. You have to think that there is an opportunity to be in the field.”
His background in fiscal management allowed him to pivot, introducing a new operating model that he determined would be the strength of his hotel. He says the Hyatt Place only has to achieve 35%-40% occupancy to break even. It does so by keeping its fixed costs low while managing its variable costs based on what its day-to-day occupancy dictates. Many other hotels have had to untangle themselves from pre-pandemic overhead and human-resource costs.
The Hyatt Place has also achieved Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) certification, which credits those properties that have implemented industry-leading practices to stop the spread of viruses. The accreditation requires that at least one person on staff is GBAC certified at all times and that sanitization protocols comply with global standards. All of the Hyatt Place Toronto/Mississauga Centre’s housekeepers are GBAC certified, Javaid says. The accommodations, which range from 235-400 square feet and include 13 accessible rooms, undergo thorough cleaning and sanitization between stays. Gym use is limited to three people at a time and the pool has a seven-person limit.
Properties like the Hyatt Place benefit from the realities of COVID-19 where consumers are reluctant to venture into big cities like Toronto because of the anxieties caused by being around crowds. The Hyatt Place also doesn’t charge for parking, which is a cost savings over downtown hotels. It’s 20 minutes by car from the heart of Toronto and about 75 minutes from Niagara Falls. Just south of Highway 401 and about 10 kilometres (6.5 miles) from Pearson International Airport, the hotel was conceived as a site for business meetings and conferences. It has adapted to the times and is attracting leisure travellers. With cheaper room rates that are typical of properties in the suburbs, the hotel is getting a closer look from Ontario and Quebec residents seeking a driving trip or short getaway.
Like other hotels, the Hyatt Place is focusing on attracting the local market until the pandemic eases. Its plans include staycation packages focused on wellness, dining promotions on its 75-seat patio, and attracting Mississauga businesses to use its meeting spaces for physical-distanced gatherings. While a three-star property, the Hyatt Place does have some features above its category class, notably a stunning 10,000-square-foot banquet area that features a massive chandelier that required 18 workers to put in place. Designed by Desmond Silveira, the banquet space has a South-Asian feel that is sure to win over local clients for weddings and functions, given that Mississauga and nearby Brampton have large populations of residents whose heritage originates in India, Pakistan, and China.
Thus far, the results are encouraging. General manager Celso Thompson says the hotel was at 100 per cent guest-approval rating during its soft launch in August. The grand opening of the hotel is planned for September 14 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with local officials in attendance.
MORE ABOUT THE HYATT PLACE
Location: 5787 Hurontario Drive, Mississauga, Ontario (see map below)
Room Rates: A search of the hotel’s booking engine returned a starting rate of $112 for a weekend night in September.
MORE TORONTO HOTEL NEWS
Hotel X Reopens Post-NHL Bubble: With the playoff field in the 2020 chase for the Stanley Cup winnowing to its final competitors, the Hotel X is preparing to reopen to the public for the first time since it shuttered at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hotel X was one of two Toronto hotels (the Fairmont Royal York was the other) that hosted NHL players in the early rounds of the postseason. Now, it welcomes the public again on September 8, with precautions in place.
Among the safety measures are NanoSeptic self-cleaning covers on all elevator buttons, doorknobs, and handrails. The fabulous 28th-floor rooftop pool is open by reservation for guests. Pool time can be booked for up to two hours through the concierge team. Similarly, the world-class fitness centre can be reserved for 50-minute workouts. The Guerlain Spa at Hotel X Toronto reopens on September 11 and guests who book during that week receive a $50 gift card (after a $199 spend) or $100 gift card (after a $350 spend).
Located across from Ontario Place and the walkway along Lake Ontario, Hotel X also benefits from being away from the crowded downtown. It offers outdoor escapes as well as superior hotel amenities suited for a lavish staycation.