Aurora had been without a hotel for nearly a decade, but that dearth for places to stay came to an end Thursday afternoon with the grand opening of the 110 room Holiday Inn Express near Highway 404.
Mayor Tom Mrakas, members of Council and representatives from the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, helped Gottardo Hotel & Resorts and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) formally cut the ribbon on the hotel, which first welcomed guests just before Thanksgiving.
“This is truly a very exciting moment, I think, for the Town as a whole,” said Mayor Mrakas at the ribbon cutting. “It has been more than 10 years without a hotel and, first and foremost, I would like to thank Aldo [Gottardo] for believing in our Town and bringing an incredible hotel [to the community]. Having a hotel is a small piece, I think, of our overall economic development strategy, and also part of our sports tourism strategy, to entice major corporations and their headquarters to come here and open up in the Town of Aurora, you need a hotel and this is an exceptional hotel that has been built.”
According to Holiday Inn Express and Suites, the new hotel, which is located on Eric T. Smith Way, near Leslie Street and Don Hillock Drive, will “fill the needs of corporate business, leisure and sports travellers to York Region.”
The design, they say, was devised to offer a “fresh, energetic” atmosphere and include amenities to fit the needs of all travellers.
The hotel features an open, pod-style desk area, flexible seating in what they describe as a “great room” including community tables with built-in wired and wireless charging stations, fully equipped guest rooms in a variety of configurations, a swimming pool, board room, ballroom, fitness area, and an area for continental breakfast.
Although ground was broken on the hotel well before COVID-19, the finished product incorporates measures with reduced contact at check-in, touchless transactions, front desk screens, sanitizer stations, visible verification of sanitized items in each guest room, and regular deep-cleaning of high-touch surfaces and high-traffic areas.
“I just happened to check the guest satisfaction scores for Canada and this hotel came up #10 in Canada and I was just thinking, ‘They just opened, how can they already go that high?’ It is not only the team, but also the product,” said Jonathan Lund, Regional VP Canada, Franchise Performance Support for IHG, at Thursday’s ceremony. “It is not only the team but also the product. You have done a fabulous job building this. I love coming to visit new hotels like this. You come in and go ‘wow.’ Actually, when you drive up you go, ‘Wow,’ and then when you arrive this great sense of arrival here – it just makes you feel welcome. It is a great product and I am so delighted you have chosen our brand family.
“This is about getting confidence back in travel. We have had a couple of conversations around how do we get people feeling good about getting back to hotels. As you see, you can see visible signs all the way through the hotel of IHG’s efforts to make sure everyone feels comfortable and confident coming back in – the Perspex screens, the sanitizer stations, the decluttering of the guest rooms, all of those things are designed to make you feel good. Behind the scenes, we have worked with the Cleveland Clinic to make sure the chemicals we’re using are up to speed so you can feel really safe staying in a hotel. At the end of the day, this is the thing we have to do the most now to really give confidence to our travellers.”
Aurora’s new Holiday Inn Express is a first for Gottardo Hotel & Resort, Inc., a family-owned business based in Toronto. According to Mr. Gottardo, when they turned their sights to Aurora, they had “confidence they had the right spot, the right location, and what it took to put a good building up and run it properly” – including assembling the team led by General Manager Guylaine Hache.
“We’re very happy and I am really proud of the building, the way it has come out to look, and the operation that Guylaine and her cohort have put into place,” said Mr. Gottardo. “Obviously, we’re all in very difficult situations. It is not the most ideal situation to be coming out with a hotel, but at the end of the day, this will pass and…we will get through this and, as a team, we will get through this.
“We look forward to support from yourselves, from anyone, quite frankly. We are open for business and we just have to work together and get through this whole scenario.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran