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Checking in with Delta

With Four Seasons and Fairmont dominating much of the media buzz, it may seem as though Delta Hotels and Resorts is flying under the radar. But there’s a lot happening, as this hotel chain is going through a dynamic companywide rebranding.

To shed some light on this, I recruited Charles McKee, Delta’s VP of marketing, for a quick interview.

Charles McKee
Charles McKee

Larry Mogelonsky: Delta has been a household name in Canada for many years. Of late, however, it seems to have slipped off the radar. Can you give readers a quick update on the current status of the chain?

Charles McKee: It’s a big time of growth for Delta Hotels and Resorts. Armed with a new strategic roadmap, we are transforming the brand into being Canada’s leading hospitality player. Our guests see this at the property level as we enter new markets like Kingston, Waterloo, Prince George and Thunder Bay while also exiting properties like the Delta Chelsea and Delta Centre-Ville as well as massive renovation projects. Behind the scenes there is a lot of work on new brand positioning, new technologies, new advertising campaigns and new loyalty propositions — all to emerge over the next few months.

The biggest symbol of this change is the majestic 46-story Delta Toronto that is being built in the dynamic new South Core neighbourhood, ringed by Union Station, CN Tower, The Metropolitan Toronto Convention Centre, the arenas (Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre) and the new Ripley’s Aquarium. The SoCo neighbourhood (as we’re calling it) is a great metaphor for the growth and energy of Delta’s brand transformation.

LM: Your background is with the airline and tourism industries. Do you see the lack of hotel experience as a roadblock or an opportunity?

CM: It’s pure opportunity! Aside from loosely sharing an industry that is dogged by the same constraints, whether it’s airline, destination or hospitality marketing, many of the issues of the day are universal. What do I sell, who do I sell to, how can I get folks to talk about my brand — the path to purchase is consistent across these sectors. While I am constantly learning and take nothing for granted, it has been rewarding to carry perspectives gained in one sector to another.

LM: Delta recently said goodbye to the flagship Delta Chelsea in Toronto, the largest property in the chain. The replacement downtown property has just been topped off, with a grand opening scheduled for later this year. How is Delta coping with no property in the critical Toronto market for a period of 12-18 months?

CM: The Greater Toronto Area is indeed a critical market for Delta. We currently have four hotel properties in the GTA, and we can’t wait to complement our presence with a downtown flagship property. Toronto has seen so many luxury condo and hotel combinations built in the last decade. What we bring to the mix is the first 4-star hotel in two decades built exclusively as a hotel property. It will be our flagship brand standard.

LM: I have seen Delta’s new ModeRoom. It is impressive and represents a strong entry into the comp set. What are Delta’s plans for the implementation of this new look across the chain?

CM: We are driving huge customer acceptance, RevPAR penetration gains and brand advocacy from our new ModeRoom. The success is based, I think, on the design approach, which set out to adapt the room to the needs of modern travelers instead of the other way around. Simple things like plenty of well-placed electrical outlets, exposed coat hooks in entryways for cold weather gear and an ergonomic desk layout to facilitate handheld device hook-ups to the TV. Thousands of rooms have been upgraded to ModeRoom, and more are on the way.

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