InterContental Hotels Group advanced plans earlier this month tobuild 52 new Holiday Inns throughout Canada, most of which will beflagged as the less-elaborate Holiday Inn Express. IHG now claimsthe largest hotel pipeline of all midscale brands in Canada.

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Already having had a presence for the past half-century, HolidayInn already has 64 full-scale hotel and resort locations throughoutCanada, totaling 11,666 rooms, plus 50 Holiday Inn Express hotelstotaling 5,071 rooms. Future locations will include major citiesincluding Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal, as well assecondary markets such as Slave Lake, Alberta; Prince Albert,Saskatchewan; and Stellarton and Truro, Nova Scotia.

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The biggest preferences to location can be summed up in a singlethree-letter word: oil. Alberta and Saskatchewan are benefitingfrom record-setting prices, making those provinces somewhat moreattractive for hotel development than any of the lower 48 states,according to Gopal Rao, VP of sales and marketing for IHG inCanada.

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"The Canadian economy is robust right now, and the prime driveris its resources," Rao tells GlobeSt.com in a recent telephoneinterview. "Those markets within those provinces are our bigopportunity for growth, and will continue to be for as long ascommodity prices stay strong."

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Canadian hotel development appears to have reached new heights,with 265 projects totaling 33,964 rooms in the pipeline as of thisyear's first quarter, according to Lodging Econometrics. However,Patrick Ford, president of the Portsmouth, NH-based research firm,previously informed GlobeSt.com that developers anticipate the sameeconomic problems the US is experiencing rippling north of theborder.

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"Canadian developers already have some concern because thepipeline has been in a topping-out formation rather than a growthformation for the last three quarters," Ford says. He adds thatAmerican tourism into Canada is declining because of the weaker USdollar, which could soften guestroom demand going forward.

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Hotel occupancy in Canada is a mixed bag lately, according tostatistics compiled by HVS and Smith Travel Research. DowntownMontreal posted a gain of nearly 22% in the first week of July froma year earlier, while Ottawa was down 18% over the year and Ontariowas off by 16%.

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Yet the prospects for investment in branded hotels throughoutCanada appear strong, according to a recent report by Jones LangLaSalle Hotels. The report notes that Canada is vastly under-roomedamong familiar flags compared to US markets.

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"Backed by outstanding operating results and increased cashflows, hotel transaction levels have soared over the past fewyears," Kristina Paider, senior VP of research and marketing forJLL Hotels in New York City, stated in the report. "Surprisingly,the Canadian hotel market is often overlooked by investors."

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Holiday Inn hotel operators in Canada are being rewarded bybeing the first outside the US to carry the chain's newly updatedlogo and signage. Rao says the new signs are a seal of approval byIHG that a hotel exemplifies the standards of its brandrelaunch.

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"The owners are very much in support of this relaunch," he says."They fully recognize that brands need to stay current and fresh inconsumers' minds."

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