Deals of the Year – Tourism: Alt Hotel’s next Ottawa location spot-on for travellers

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It’s a mid-winter vacationer’s dream scenario: ditching the parka and strolling into the airport in shorts and flip-flops without ever having to face the elements.

Soon enough, it will be a reality, thanks to Canadian hotel chain Group Germain’s $40-million plan to construct a 180-room hotel under its Alt banner that will offer entry to Ottawa’s airport terminal via a covered walkway. 

It gives a whole new meaning to “direct connection,” and it was one of the airport’s key requirements when it put bids for a new hotel out to tender in the summer of 2017.

“We know, based on our research and even probably many of your readers have personal experience of staying at a quote-unquote ‘airport’ hotel, that is really nowhere near the airport,” says Joel Tkach, vice-president of business development and marketing at the Ottawa International Airport Authority. 

“When you can say that you’re directly connected, it certainly is appealing to those customers looking for that.”

Group Germain is expected to break ground on the project in January, with completion targeted for late spring 2021. It will be the chain’s third hotel in the capital, following the Alt Hotel on Slater Street and the Le Germain Hotel on Daly Avenue.

For Group Germain director of development Hugo Germain, the chance to add to the rapidly growing Quebec-based company’s stable of airport properties was too good to pass up. 

“They’re pretty rare, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re so excited about this one,” he says of airport proposals. “When those opportunities come by, they don’t come twice.”

In this case, that’s not quite accurate. The Ottawa airport authority initially started looking for potential partners to construct a new airport hotel back in 2015. 

Three sites were considered, and plenty of developers were keen on the proposal, Tkach says. But bidders clearly favoured a site that would allow them to link a hotel directly to the airport terminal, and the option best suited for that, located just south of the terminal, posed a number of construction challenges, he concedes.

The airport authority went back to the drawing board and did another land study to find a more suitable space for a hotel, eventually rebooting the RFP process in 2017.

The new location next to the parking garage “was a lot less speculative and it was a lot more exact in terms of what the land could bear,” Tkach says.

Group Germain’s previous experience in building airport hotels ​– it already operates Alt-branded properties at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and Halifax Stanfield International Airport ​– gave the Canadian chain a clear edge, he says.

A number of complications can arise when building a hotel so close to an airport, Tkach says, including the need to make sure the structure doesn’t interfere with a pilot’s sight lines. 

“It’s good to have an operator that knows most of those,” he adds.

The new property will feature a restaurant and meeting rooms on the top floor offering 360-degree views of the terminal and runways. Guests will also be allowed to check out whenever they wish, meaning they can relax in their rooms until just before they need to head over to catch their flights. There will also be informal meeting space on the ground floor just steps away from the terminal, Germain adds.

“We become an extension of the airport,” he says.