With two Alt hotels up and running in Montreal and Quebec City – and another under construction in Toronto – 32-year-old Hugo Germain is positioning himself as the head of Canada’s most anticipated new hotel chain.
The young (fairly flirty) Quebec City-based hotelier – whose name sounds like a cross between a Metzingen fashion house and a Parisian stroll – has set his sights on Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax as other potential locations for the new Alt brand.
TOQUE & CANOE: Tell us about your vision for the Alt hotel chain.
HUGO GERMAIN: My goal is to establish a Canadian brand – a three star hotel that caters to business travelers. We’re aiming for a consistent experience from coast to coast that has an accessible price, good style and a friendly staff.
T&C: Your family has built a reputation for its upscale Le Germain hotels (found most recently in Calgary, but also in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City.) What does an Alt hotel bring to the table that is distinct from a Le Germain?
HG: For a Le Germain, imagine an Audi A8. The speed. The air conditioning in the back seats. The best indoor console. These details are expected by certain people.
With Alt hotels, think Smart car. It’s going to do the job and do it well. You will get comfort and a nice design and it’s going to be a fun experience – but affordably so.
T&C: Tell us about your influences. What has shaped Hugo Germain’s vision for hotel culture?
HG: People don’t need the frills like they used to. They’re aware of their pocket book so they’re looking for good value. But they’re also looking for style. We’re talking about getting down to the basics. That’s the sweet spot.
T&C: You’re obviously a big traveller. What irks you most when you’re staying at what is supposed to be a “quality” hotel?
HG: Being woken up by an unintelligent ventilation system. You know the kind. The one that starts and stops throughout the night, messing with your sleep. The one that can’t keep the temperature you’ve requested on the thermostat. Now that annoys me.
T&C: We know you love your family’s hotels. But if you had to choose one of your favourite Canadian hotels – one that didn’t have the Germain Groupe’s name on it – which one would it be?
HG: I would have to say Opus in Vancouver. It’s a cool place. It’s fun. They’re a hip hotel but they do the basics well. Good location. Simple technology. Comfortable beds.
They’re clean and they provide good service. These are the elements that make for a good experience. When I left Opus I was in a good and agreeable state. This says a lot.
T&C: Finally, what’s the first thing you do when you check into a hotel room?
HG: I switch on the television because I travel alone and it keeps me company. Then I check to see if the bed sheets are ironed. The most comfortable hotel bed is the bed that has been ironed. Why? Because it feels brand new. Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares.