Northern Vision buys High Country Inn

Northern Vision Development will take possession of the High Country Inn August 1, sealing the deal on the company’s second hotel purchase in…

Northern Vision Development will take possession of the High Country Inn August 1, sealing the deal on the company’s second hotel purchase in Whitehorse in a year.

The Yukon-based development partnership bought the 85-room hotel in downtown Whitehorse from longtime owners Barry Bellchambers and Maggie Holt.

“This was a most difficult decision to make after the many years of a happy and rewarding experience,” said the sellers in an e-mail.

“Northern Vision … purchased the Best Western Gold Rush (Inn) last year and will provide both properties with strong and professional direction, and already have started an improvement program to both properties.”

The two have spent millions of dollars on renovations, making the High Country one of the Yukon’s premier hotels.

“On a future note, we have a couple of development projects in the hopper, in Whitehorse, so we will still be around, and hopefully will run across you in the future,” they said.

“However, we hope to rent a home in the desert this winter, so we can have a snowshoveling-free winter, and thaw out a bit.”

The couple declined to comment on the sale of their hotel.

“Two hotels acting together can do better than two separate hotels,” said Piers McDonald, president and board chair of Northern Vision Development and a former NDP premier.

The two hotels are better situated to compete for conventioneers wanting to escape to the North for a weekend of seminars and meetings, he said.

“Marketing yourself for conventions, you need not only the meeting rooms but you need to have sufficient block-booking ability to commit to a certain quality of a room and a certain price. It’s been difficult to secure in the past.”

The two sides signed a purchase and sales agreement in January, and the company officially takes possession August 1.

McDonald wouldn’t reveal the purchase price.

“We paid a fair price,” he said. “I think the vendor would feel the same. A property of this nature involves a fairly large investment.

“We like the hotel business. There’s a good future in it. We’re doing market research to determine what the expansion opportunity is.”

A growing economy mixed with a community benefiting from tourism makes hotels desirable properties, said Dave Austin, president and CEO of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.

“When somebody buys a property, they want to put their mark on it, their own brand on it,” said Austin. “They’ll spend a bunch of money on both their properties to fix them up. That means local jobs.

“When companies like this one start spending the kind of money they’re spending, other investors are going to start looking around, too.”

The current management team at the High Country will remain intact after the keys to the hotel change hands, said McDonald, adding that the company isn’t anticipating job losses and, if business grows, there could be jobs added.

Already the company has planned renovations for this year, including replacing furnishings in some rooms and some equipment in the kitchen.

Next year, the parking lot and the building’s façade will get revamped, said McDonald.

“The property requires new investments to spruce the operation up even further,” he said. “It’s a good property now, but there are things to be improved. We’re looking at investments in both properties.”

Price changes to hotel rooms haven’t been discussed, said McDonald.

Several hotels have changed hands over the last couple years and now that The Capitol is for sale, there appears to be many investment opportunities in the Yukon, for those who can afford them.

“We’ve acquired some properties that are very large and difficult to finance. There aren’t many buyers of large properties in the marketplace,” said McDonald.

“But that’s changing in part because some of the First Nation development corporations are starting to make some major investments into properties.

“I think we can see more competition, which is a good thing.”

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