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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Pilot Travel Centers is opening its 271st location in Canada -- a first for the company.
"We've been looking around in Canada for several years and had an opportunity to buy an existing travel center in Tilbury," an Ontario city 45 miles east of Detroit, said Jimmy Haslam, president and CEO of Pilot Travel Centers LLC said in a report by The Knoxville News-Sentinel.
The travel center is located on Canada's Highway 401, which runs across southern Ontario and is one of the continent's busiest highways. Doug Switzer, manager of government relations for the Ontario Trucking Association, said Pilot should benefit from the travel center's proximity to the bustling Detroit-Windsor, Ontario, border, which more than 10 million vehicles cross each year, the report stated.
"It's one of the busiest truck trade corridors in North America, if not in the world," Switzer said. "Clearly, a lot of the trade they're going to be catching is those trucks going across the border."
Pilot says it will renovate the travel center's interior, relocate fuel islands and add about 60 parking spaces. The location will also include a Subway restaurant.
Haslam said in the report that criteria for selecting the site were the same as sites in the United States: a location near a major highway carrying high numbers of trucks, with potential for heavy retail and gasoline traffic.
"We look at Canada as a natural extension of the U.S.," he said. "It made sense to extend our network into Canada."
At least two of Pilot's competitors have opened up shop in Canada in recent years, most notably Flying J of Ogden, Utah, which last month announced a joint venture with Shell Canada. The company operates seven travel centers and 39 total locations in Canada.
Additionally, TravelCenters of America, based in Westlake, Ohio, operates a travel center in Woodstock, Ontario, about 100 miles northwest of Pilot's new location.
Haslam said Pilot has arranged to buy another property in Cardinal, Ontario, a city 60 miles south of Ottawa on Highway 401. In the next four years, he said, Pilot could open as many as 20 stores in Canada.
"We think there's a substantial opportunity for us up in Canada," he said.