Students Compete in Canada’s First-Ever #HotelNEXT Competition

Aspiring hotel developers from universities across Canada competed in the first national contest this week called #hotelNEXT by pitching hotel concepts to a panel of Canadian investors and owners in front of a live audience at the annual Canadian Hotel Investment Conference (CHIC).

“CHIC has been running for 20 years now, and in an effort to get more young people involved in our industry we created the #hotelNEXT competition,” said Charles Suddaby, Vice President, Hospitality & Gaming, Practice Leader at Cushman & Wakefield, who led a group of industry representatives to create this contest. “The whole purpose was to try and bridge that gap between the hotel schools and the industry. It’s one thing to have students working for you, it’s another thing to have such competent students stand up in front of their industry leaders and demonstrate their ability and knowledge – I think it’s wonderful.”

The producer of the conference, Big Picture Conferences, received a total of 7 submissions comprised of students from 6 different universities. The top three teams had 15 minutes to present their ideas on the hotel of the future using the criteria of creativity, competitiveness, differentiation, target market identification and return on investment. A panel of judges and the audience voted and prizes included $5000 (first place), $3000 (second place), and third prize ($2000).

The winners of the competition at CHIC were:

  • First place: Aaron Laurie (University of Guelph) and Willam (McMaster University) created “Opshinns”, an inspired 200 room airport hotel concept catering to the value driven “worldly explorers” to be located in Toronto, Ontario;
  • Second place: Sarah O’Connor and Evangeline Sing (Mount Saint Vincent University) created the “Vino Viña” 50-room hotel concept fashioned around wine culture to be located in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia; and
  • Third place: Colleen Black, Queenie Lai and Kelsey Perra (Thompson Rivers University) created “The Hotel of All Sorts”, a 60-room hotel inspired by the late Canadian artist Emily Carr to be located in Tofino, British Columbia.

“This year’s contest has helped industry leaders understand the creativity and talent of students studying at Canada’s hotel school programs,” said Orie Berlasso, Conference Producer and Managing Director of CHIC.  “We are looking forward to launching a new project challenge for next year’s event that allows students to take hotel concepts to the next level for the future.”

Now in its 20th year, CHIC attracted more than 560 attendees – a historic number of participants from within the hotel industry.  Big Picture Conferences produces the event in association with CBRE Hotels, Colliers International Hotels and HLT Advisory Inc. The annual event attracts stakeholders from Canada’s $16.7 billion lodging industry representing 8,500 hotels, motels and resorts.

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About VSheree

V. Sheree Williams is the publisher of Cuisine Noir Magazine, the country's first digital and print culinary magazine that connects the African diaspora through food, drink and travel. For more, in-depth stories, visit
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