Sageflo’s 3×3 Podcast: Episode 5

John Evans of Trilogy Group of Companies and OPUS Hotel Corporation

In the latest episode of our 3×3 Podcast, Julian sits down with John Evans, President and Founder of Trilogy Group of Companies and OPUS Hotel Corporation, to discuss how he developed his businesses and how digital marketing impacts the hotel industry. 

Podcast Excerpts

Julian Scott: We’re very lucky to welcome John Evans, CEO and Founder of the Trilogy Group of Companies and the OPUS Hotel Corporation. John, would you introduce yourself please?

John Evans: I’m a real estate developer, probably now getting close to 40 plus years. I’ve been in the real estate development business based in Vancouver. OPUS Hotel Vancouver is now in its 21st year of operation. We’ve just opened in Richmond another 100-room property right beside Vancouver International Airport, called Versante. And I’m now and have been for the last year, living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico working on OPUS Riviera Nayarit, my first hotel development in this country. 

Julian Scott: One of the things that I think would be interesting for people to know is the model of hotels and hotel management and hotel development. I think a lot of people think, “If it’s a Hilton, the Hilton bought it, the Hilton owns it, the Hilton manages it and runs it day to day”. And that’s not necessarily the case.

John Evans: There are basically three aspects to the business. There is development and ownership. Typically, the development will be undertaken by the ultimate owner of the business. The second and often not the same party is management. The hotel management business is a very significant global business. In many cases, the hotel management companies do not have ownership. And the third piece, which is often misunderstood, is the franchise or licensing of brand or flag. So, you have three district distinct areas in the hotel business: ownership, management, and what I’ll call licensing or franchise. 

In fact, we’re three of three because we build our own hotels with partners in the world, we’re in the hotel management business, and I also own the OPUS Hotel brand so the OPUS brand is franchised and is available for license. 

Julian Scott: It goes without saying that the past two years have been incredibly challenging for so many businesses, but particularly the hospitality industry which has been severely impacted by travel restrictions and customer sentiment of worry of traveling and so forth. For your businesses, what have you had to do to pivot to get through this time?

John Evans: We had never seen a situation where essentially your businesses were closed. We were fortunate that the Canadian Federal Government stepped up for businesses and we were able to have a significant portion of the salary component for our hotel management groups covered. That subsidy has essentially, for I think virtually every hotel owner in Canada, kept them afloat. We only reopened OPUS Hotel Vancouver in August. We were closed for 16 months. And if you had told me that that was possible, I would never have believed that there would be anything that could cause that to occur. Every hotel owner has worked very hard to stay afloat. And the good news is the majority have. Everybody creatively found a way to weather the storm and to try and live through it.

Julian Scott: From your perspective and looking back so far, have you felt that there were any learnings that will stick with us as you head down into the future?

John Evans: We sort of lived through it in the 2009, 10, 11 eras when there was a dramatic fall in demand. And you know we’re not in the commodity business. There are those in the hotel business who really are a commodity. We sell lifestyle. We’re a lifestyle brand and a lifestyle brand is basically more niched, it’s more expensive, and it is more sought after. The good news is that the millennial world is going to travel in many cases before the older segments of the market will travel. So, we’re always focused on lifestyle brands. Our big customers: Lululemon, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, you know those are our big customers. So, we understand that market and those companies. Many of them have done very well through the pandemic, but we will continue to cross-market with those international lifestyle brands. 

Julian Scott: One thing we wanted to ask is, from your perspective, the role of digital marketing. Obviously, it was important before the pandemic and probably even more so now. How has digital marketing impacted the hotel industry and what role do you see it playing as we navigate forward?

John Evans: Well, it’s been the topic of conversation for the last month in every way, shape, and form. My view is that digital advertising, the digital world relative to hotels, will become virtually the single and soul way in which hotels are marketed and sold. I cannot put enough importance on it. It is my daily focus.  

It is how we are going to restore the OPUS Vancouver business and it is how we are going to grow the Versante hotel business, and it is how I’m going to launch the OPUS Riviera brand. As I come into the high-end Mexican resort business, it’s everything.  

I think the limitation is, I’m just not sure how many people are well trained and brilliant at executing. So, it’s an area where we need more talent, we need more individuals. Not just big agencies, but individuals who can join the team, because they now are a critical part of the management group. 

View the full podcast episode here to hear more of John Evans’ hotel development and industry insights.  

Posted by Aaron Smith

CEO at Sageflo