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SPRING • 2016


Inspiring Service - Growing Value


Set your staff housing apart


How to protect yourself against cybercrime

Spotlight on



A new digital program makes it easier for hotel employees to upgrade their skills

The Employer of Choice Guide

Contents SPRING



Columns 7



The Lobby


Avoiding the pink slip, top ten housekeeping tips, standing on guard against cybercrime

18 26


Features 14

Let’s Have Lunch

Chad Gulevich and Ken Hall sit down to talk renovations in Jasper



The Digital Diploma Olds College teams up with government and industry to help build an online program for hospitality and tourism



Notes from Home and Abroad


AHLA and You


HR Files

Back of House 26

Eat, Drink, Sleep

Exploring Okotoks


Speaking Personally

Sonja Cuthbert, General Manager of Days Inn & Suites-Lloydminster


Parting Shot

Home Sweet Home Providing excellent staff housing is key for retaining employees at remote Alberta hotels


24 Inspiring Service - Growing Value

Featured Employee: Moving Up Evelyn Mondares moved to Canada from the Philippines, rising up to take on a big challenge

28 Spring 2016




Official magazine of

© 2016 Simmons Canada, a division of SSH Bedding Canada Co. All rights reserved.

2707 Ellwood Drive Edmonton, AB T6X 0P7 Toll-Free: 1-888-436-6112


Chair of the Board:

Steven Watters

First Vice Chair:

Perry Batke

Vice Chairs:

Robin Cumine Leanne Shaw-Brotherston

Past Chair:

Perry Wilford

President & CEO:

Dave Kaiser

Directors North:

Amr Awad Shazma Charania George Marine Ken Mealey

Directors Central:

Karen Naylor Tina Tobin

Directors South:

Chris Barr Cory Haggar

Published by:

Cleaning for

Guest Retention

Hospitality Services


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10259 105 Street Edmonton, AB T5J 1E3 Toll-Free 1-866-227-4276 Phone (780) 990-0839 Fax (780) 425-4921

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief:

Ruth Kelly

Managing Editor:

Lyndsie Bourgon

Art Director:

Charles Burke

Graphic Designer:

Andrew Wedman

Production Manager:

Betty Feniak

Production Technicians:

Brent Felzien, Brandon Hoover

Vice-President, Sales:

Anita McGillis

Contributing Writers:

Lisa Catterall, Julie-Anne Cleyn Martin Dover, Michelle Lindstrom, Willow White

Contributing Photographers and Illustrators:

Cooper + O’Hara, Jared Kelly, Evan Montgomery, Darryl Propp PM #40020055 Mainstay is printed on Forest Stewardship Council® certified paper

Mainstay is published four times a year for Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association. Content copyright 2016 is held by AHLA. Content may not be reprinted or reproduced on websites without the express permission of AHLA. Undeliverable mail should be returned to Venture Publishing at 10259 105 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 1E3

The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association

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President’s MESSAGE




(AHLA) is very concerned about the Town of Fox Creek’s recent decision to hike business licence fees for hotels from $75 per year to four per cent of annual room revenues. We believe this bylaw sets a dangerous precedent that could expand to municipalities across Alberta. If similar bylaws were passed province-wide, the economic impact on our industry would be in the range of $90 million per year. The town’s rationale for the dramatic increase in fees is that additional revenue is needed to fund local infrastructure. In Fox Creek’s point of view, visitors to the town who stay in hotels impose stress on roads and sewers, and therefore hotels should pay for these impacts. Of course hotels, like all businesses in Fox Creek, already contribute to municipal revenues through their property taxes. The AHLA supports Fox Creek hotels in a legal challenge to the bylaw. We believe the Town of Fox Creek has neither the jurisdiction nor the authority to pass a bylaw that is, in reality, the collection of a tax. The AHLA’s legal counsel, Bennett Jones LLP, has done extensive research on this issue and has found legal precedent that supports our position. An application against the Town of Fox Creek was filed on November 30, 2015. We are keenly aware of the comprehensive Municipal Government Act review that will soon be underway. We remain concerned of any existing or new legislation that would allow municipalities to levy new taxes on hotels. Your Board of Directors believes that all hotels, motels, inns, and resorts in Alberta have an interest in fighting this bylaw, and encourages AHLA members to come together and support the legal effort to strike this bylaw. Other municipalities are watching what happens in Fox Creek, and will make the same cash grab if they believe they have the power to do so. Be sure to monitor your local council in case they try to enact similar bylaws.

Inspiring Service - Growing Value

Your Board of Directors believes that all hotels, motels, inns, and resorts in Alberta have an interest in fighting this bylaw, and encourages AHLA members to come together and support the legal effort to strike this bylaw.

The AHLA has appealed to our entire membership to contribute to a legal fund to help fight the Town of Fox Creek’s business licence fee bylaw. Any unused funds will be returned to members. To date, over 400 members have answered the call and have already started building a war chest to defend against encroaching municipal fees. We’re so grateful for the support that we’ve received from our members so far. Our members are truly coming together for this cause. We look forward to serving you.

Spring 2016



Chairman’s REPORT




At a time when hoteliers needed our support the most, the AHLA was quick to act. When our membership was asked to help fight a legal battle with their municipal government, hotels around the province answered the call, knowing this is a threat that could easily spread to other towns and cities in Alberta.



Association’s (AHLA) Board Chair comes to an end, I can’t help but reflect upon the many changes, curveballs, and successes we’ve experienced as an industry in recent years. In April 2014, oil prices soared over $100 a barrel, there was a familiar provincial and federal Progressive Conservative government in power, and Alberta’s economy was the envy of the country. The biggest challenge in the tourism industry seemed to be finding and retaining reliable labour. During our 2014 annual convention, this was magnified when the former federal Minister of Employment and Social Development, Jason Kenney, announced a moratorium on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). This was the landscape at the beginning of my term, and I couldn’t have predicted the historic changes to the political and economic environment that were yet to come when I embarked on my journey as Board Chair. At a provincial level, we have had three different premiers and countless ministerial changes, including eight different tourism ministers in nine years. In 2014, the Progressive Conservatives took a bite out of our Tourism Levy by allocating $7 million of it to general revenues. This was a concerning shift that threatened the future of Alberta’s tourism funding. Then, in May 2015, we elected Alberta’s current NDP government – a political move that seemed unfathomable a mere two years ago. There were concerns surrounding the change coming from a party with vastly different ideologies from those of the PCs. A minimum wage increase was quickly introduced and the announcement of a royalty review created uneasiness in an already fragile oil sector. Labour is one of our industry’s biggest challenges, but the AHLA keeps it front of mind. The association partnered with Olds College to develop a flagship hospitality program (learn more about it on pg. 18), created an online job board that matches employers with employees (TourismWorks), and has been the driving force behind the national hotel and lodging worker program to help fill the gap of the TFWP. As the cost of doing business in a declining economy became more challenging, AHLA continued to develop Check In Canada, an online accommodation booking site to combat Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). Check In Canada gives hotels and destination marketers the opportunity to take back their guests. The dollars spent on OTAs across the country are enormous and

Spring 2016

the lost marketing intelligence is immeasurable. In 2015, the Town of Fox Creek created a bylaw impacting the business licence fees for local hotels. The bylaw hiked hoteliers’ fees from $75 per year to four per cent of annual room revenues. This means that some hotels could see their business licence fees increased by over 100,000 per cent. At a time when hoteliers needed our support the most, the AHLA was quick to act. When our membership was asked to help fight a legal battle with their municipal government, hotels around the province answered the call, knowing this is a threat that could easily spread to other towns and cities in Alberta. Without being able to predict the future, I can assure you in full confidence that the AHLA will always be there for you. Thank you to the AHLA staff members and the Board of Directors, with whom I have served the association for over two years. The AHLA is the product of an incredible number of past and present Board Members, CEOs, staff, and members. We are all better and stronger together.

The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association




BY Julie-Anne Cleyn

During challenging economic times, taking steps to avoid layoffs can make all the difference.

IT’S HARD TIMES IN OUR PROVINCE. MANY BUSINESSES HAVE been forced to make tough decisions, including downsizing their staff. But if it’s possible, keeping your staff on payroll means good things for both your business and your guests. Mainstay sat down with Arjun Channa, General Manager of the Westin Calgary, and Karim Sorathia, General Manager at Four Points by Sheraton Calgary Airport, to learn about alternatives to downsizing your hotel staff in these challenging economic times. WHAT ARE SOME WAYS HOTEL OWNERS AND MANAGERS CAN AVOID LAYOFFS DURING HARD TIMES? KS: The biggest thing right now is cross-training everybody as much as possible rather than hiring extra people. We’re thankful that we have a banquet department. Housekeeping has been able to jump into banquets on our busy days to cover some of the hours so we’re not facing any layoffs. At a previous job we used up vacation time as well. We would use anything that was banked for the managers, supervisors, that kind of stuff. So it would open up a few more hours for our line associates. AC: For starters, it’s imperative that hotel owners and managers remain positive and understanding. By working collaboratively, we will make it through. Hotel managers should rank their cost saving measures with levels of severity (1, 2, 3) and start with the least extreme. Lay-offs should always be a last alternative as we know this decision affects the livelihoods of our associates and causes strain on the organization’s culture. Reducing benefits is a good start, as most associates will understand.

Inspiring Service - Growing Value

HOW CAN HOTEL OWNERS AND MANAGERS ECONOMICALLY TRAIN EMPLOYEES TO PERFORM NEW TASKS? AC: Cross-training to encourage multi-tasking should always be considered, irrespective of good or bad times. Depending on the skill set of the individuals, identify subject matter experts who can train those in need of additional knowledge. Every organization must do its part when it comes to ensuring that existing hours are spread equally.

“Lay-offs should always be the last resort as we know this decision affects the livelihoods of our associates and causes strain on

BESIDES BEING COMMITTED AND COMPASSIONATE TO YOUR EMPLOYEES, WHAT ARE SOME REASONS YOU SHOULD AVOID LAYOFFS? AC: Layoffs bring disruption to an organization’s culture, lead to loss of talent, and often the subsequent need to re-hire at higher costs when the good times return. The panic from layoffs seems to spread throughout the industry and even your community.

Spring 2016

the organization’s culture.”






The cover of the AHLA’s latest Campground Guide, a traveler looks out over the lake at Obed Lake Provincial Park while the sun sets. The AHLA has published the guide since 1988, and will continue to help campers worldwide find the perfect campground through @ABHotelAssoc

comparing the advantages of full-service and select-service experience on the development of a GM. - Mark Perry, General Manager Staybridge Suites West Edmonton

Your Say... The new magazine is great. There are a lot of industry magazines, but none that are this relevant to an Alberta hotelier. This is a great medium for sharing the many varied AHLA programs and services, as well focusing on the larger industry trends but in a way that is local and relevant to Albertans. A personal favorite article was the discourse on how to grow in this industry,

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Spring 2016

Thank you @ABHotelAssoc! Toiletries are always needed and very much appreciated by our participants! #grateful - Bissell Centre

I fully enjoyed reading Mainstay’s winter edition! The magazine included many great looking photos with the feature articles. The feature articles were very well-presented and very relevant. There is a variety of valid information throughout the publication that operators or employees can review, and they can take away pertinent information for their own operation. I especially enjoyed Blast from the Past! The magazine is very colorful and of good quality. It’s a winner! - Steve White, Certified Hotel Administrator Holiday Inn Conference Centre Edmonton South

The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association

Top Ten

Housekeeping tips

“GUESTS DON’T CARE HOW GOOD YOUR SERVICE IS IF THEIR ROOM ISN’T CLEAN,” said Garrett Turta, General Manager of the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton, when the Housekeeping Awards recipients were announced last year. In anticipation of the 2015-2016 Housekeeping Awards Gala this April, here are our nominees’ top 10 tips to keep the spaces in your hotel spotless.

1. Clean in order of most clean to most dirty to mini-

mize bacterial transfer (the washroom should be last).

2. Vacuum before you mop so you don’t find yourself trying to remove difficult hair from the floor.

3. Disinfect handles, remotes, and other items that are frequently touched.

4. Check a fitted sheet’s tags before you make the bed

to know which is the long end. With king sheets, tags are on the bottom left. With queen sheets, they’re on the bottom right.

5. Hot lights explode when wiped with a damp cloth. Turn lights off, let bulbs cool, then wipe.

6. Vacuum the most walked-on areas twice by vacuuming into the room over the high-traffic areas, then vacuuming yourself out.

7. Clean around the toilet seat hinges and around other tiny cracks with a toothbrush.

8. Wipe a black felt square (available at craft stores) over washroom surfaces. If there is no scum on the felt, the surface is clean.

9. To prevent the hairdryer from overheating and stopping, remove lint from the lint screen.

10. Read what your guests are saying about your room

cleanliness online and adjust your cleaning routine accordingly.


How to stand on guard against cybercrime 01010100001001010101010100101010 10101110101010101000100100100100101010000100101110101010101000100100100100101010000100101010101010010101010001011101010 01011010101010100010010010010010101000010010001001001100100101010000100101010101011001010101000101110101010101000100100 When hotel guests book online, the URL in the toolbar should start with “https://” –not “http://” 1010101100010111010101010100010010010010010101000 Do you tell this to your guests? 010010010010101000010010101010101001010101000101110101010101000100100100110101000010010101010101 You should. A hotel’s guests are the establishment’s greatest risk for cybercrime, and seemingly-small details can 1010100001001010101010100101010100010 make all the difference in digital protection. Cst. Philip Hawkins, who works with the Cyber Crimes Investigation Detail 101010101001010101000101110101010101 of the Edmonton Police Service, has a rundown on what to keep an eye out for: 010110100100110101001001010101000101110101010101000100100100100 10101010001001001001101010100010010011010101000100100100110101010001001001001011010101010100010010010010010101000010010 • Watch your Wi-Fi. Cyber criminals often target public Wi-Fi networks to gain access to guest computers and 1010010010010101000010010101010101001010 personal information. Criminals will infect the Wi-Fi network, which prompts users to update a common software 010010101010101001010101000101110101 program or a plugin on their Internet browser. The prompt to update may look legit, but when the user updates, 1001010101000101110101010101000100100 they actually install a program developed by the cyber criminals. These programs can range from key loggers, 01110101010101000100100100100101010000 which record all your keyboard inputs, to viruses that grant the hacker full access to your computer. In many 000100100100100101010000100101010101010 cases the hackers are after banking information. 110101010001001001001101010100010010010010101010000100101010101010010101010001011 • Scan your own hotel network from time to time. Make sure no one has set up a network with a similar name to 01010010101010001011101010101010001 yours. This could be a sign that someone is trying to lure guests to a false network. 1010110101001001101001011101010101010001001001001001010 STAY SAFE • Password protect your Wi-Fi access. This will prevent cyber criminals accessing the network without being a guest. 01000100100100100101010000100101010 will be • Ensure your router’s firmware is up to date. This will make it harder for cyber criminals to gain access to your 01001010110 Cst. Hawkins 10101010010101010 router and infect the network.10010111011000101011010110010010010101000010010101010101001010101010 presenting on cyber 01110101010 • Be aware of points of payment. A common criminal tactic is to come into hotels late at night, when staffing 010101010001 crime and digital 00100100100 is lower and managers are away, or sometimes even during the day, and claim to be from the company 10001011101010 protection Tuesday,0100101010 that provides the point of payment terminals. They “fix” the terminal, but actually install software on 0110010001001001 April 19, at this year’s 00101010101 it to capture credit card data. In these instances hotels can be liable as they exposed their point 1101010010100010111 AHLA Convention. 001001001001 of payment terminal and could be sued.10101101011001001001010100001001010101010101010000100101010101010010101010001011101010 Inspiring Service - Growing Value

Spring 2016

Mainstay 11


Notes from Home and Abroad Falcon Crest Lodge Soars to the Top


Canmore’s Falcon Crest Lodge is the only hotel in Alberta to be named one of TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards winners in 2016. This is the fourth consecutive year that Falcon Crest has won the highest possible award from TripAdvisor, and it places the lodge in the top one per cent of hospitality properties in the world on the website.

AHLA EMPLOYER OF CHOICE AWARDS The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association recently announced the 2016 Employer of Choice (EoC) Award recipients. The awards are highly sought after and recognize excellence in human resources practices. This year there was a 30 per cent increase in the number of applicants, and 121 properties were honoured. The award is a key method for properties around the province to attract and retain solid employees. This is especially important in times of higher-than-normal unemployment, and many properties use the EoC as an audit tool to ensure that employees are at their happiest coming to work. The award considers staffing practices, compensation, and workplace health and safety.

Gone to the Dogs Last November, the Westin Ottawa sent their guests to the doghouse. Or, rather, they brought a doghouse to the guests. The hotel partnered with an organization called Ottawa Dog Rescue and turned part of its lobby into a foster home for border collie Ellie. Ellie is the second rescue to be fostered in the hotel – the first was a pair of Chihuahua puppies.

12 Mainstay

Spring 2016

The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association

Hospitality Furniture at its Finest!





In the Know

The Crimson

Local Albertan interior designers recommend the latest and greatest hotel decor trends:


Calgary-based Jocelyne Holland of Holland Design says there’s been a shift towards a more boutique and regional approach that is less corporate and more user-friendly. She suggests creating an aesthetic that is luxurious and relaxed. Ditch bathroom amenity kits and instead offer a few luxury spa products that can be sampled from ornately fastened, large bottles in the guest’s bathroom.

2. Natalie Fuglestveit of Natalie Fuglestveit Interior Design in Calgary sug-

gests displaying local artwork and photography to showcase the culture and community of the area.


Fuglestveit also suggests taking advantage of unique architectural spaces. A recent trend is dramatic ceiling details which can include unique light fixtures, wall coverings, wood, and tile to create a more memorable experience.

4. Edmonton-based Alysha Martin of Aspen Lyee says that the days of stark, mod-


ern spaces are long gone. She suggests creating a contemporary yet comfortable aesthetic using warm, sophisticated, and neutral colour palettes with natural materials and textures.

WORK STATION RENOVATION What the Marriott might have thought was an easy design change, has instead turned into a controversial move—the hotel chain has announced that it is slowly starting to remove desks from guest rooms. Bill Marriott, the Chairman of the hotel chain, has been quoted as saying that younger guests are changing the “whole dynamic” of guest amenities and services, including the design of work spaces in rooms. Many Marriott hotels are now offering side tables next to couches and beds, to work from, which has resulted in pages and pages of mixed reviews online from both business and pleasure travellers.

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Property Facelift Ken Hall and Chad Gulevich sit down to chat about taking on major renovations to their Rocky Mountain properties BY MARTIN DOVER / PHOTOGRAPH BY COOPER + O’HARA



Jasper Park Lodge, walked into his new role at the hotel nine months ago and took on an in-progress renovation that’s changing the hotel from the inside out. The hotel is currently in phase two of a multi-year renovation to guest rooms, water, heating and cooling systems, and landscaping. “It’s quite an exciting time,” says Hall, who has been working with Fairmont for 23 years. “It’s the largest renovation the hotel has ever been under.” The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was built 100 years ago, but it’s not

14 Mainstay

Spring 2016

alone in its challenges when it comes to taking on a large-scale renovation. Chad Gulevich owns the Mount Robson Inn, also in Jasper, along with the Mountaineer Lodge in Lake Louise. It’s a family business for Gulevich, and he has taken on interior renovations at the Mountaineer since buying it four years ago. “Right now I have a whole wing torn apart,” he says, explaining that they are turning 14 rooms into 16 suites. In Jasper, he’s also renovating the exterior of the Mount Robson Inn. “I’d like to bring them up to the same level, on both fronts.” Taking on big renovations at the Jasper Park Lodge included a

The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association

year capital plan that outlined priorities and phases. “With such a large property, we have over 120 different projects that we’ve looked at taking on over the next five years,” says Hall. “You have to set your priorities – bedding, furniture, equipment, carpet, landscaping, and you can’t forget about technology, which is really important to guests today.” According to Hall and Gulevich, timing is one of the most important aspects of planning a redesign. “It takes a long time, from procuring what you need to purchase, you should start working one to two years out or you could miss your window,” says Hall. “Especially with ordering supplies internationally, you have to maximize cost benefits. “You want to make sure that you’re ahead of the marketplace, and that you offer the same services – or better. You can’t let your property lag behind the competition.” It also takes time to determine what guests would like to see in hotel rooms. Hall says Fairmont uses J.D. Power to determine guest needs, as well as feedback through social media. “So we know that the guest room is more urgent than some of the restaurant space,” he says. They also take feedback from designers. Gulevich’s properties use an online survey to poll guests, as well as online feedback. “You’re well advised to be constantly changing and updating,” he says. “You can’t rebuild every few years, so you have to do little bits and pieces. If you sit on your hands too long, you’ll fall behind.”

“You want to make sure that you’re ahead of the marketplace, and that you offer the same services – or better. You can’t let your property lag behind the competition.” THAT MEANS FACING DOWN THE REALITIES – AND CHALLENGES – of renovations. Hall says that it’s important to plan for contingencies, since building codes are changing, and infrastructure is often underground. “You may find yourself rebuilding a lot more of your property than you expected to,” he says. He also notes that it’s important to produce a model room of the guest room renovations before going fullscale. “You want to do a mock-up room and sleep in it to experience what the guest is going to experience,” says Hall. “Often, design and functionality are two different things.” Gulevich agrees, saying that managers should have a good contingency plan and budget in place to counter “surprises” that present themselves. That includes fluctuating exchange and shipping rates. “Although you might be saving on fuel costs, you have to prepare for fluctuating exchange rates,” says Hall. “We try to maintain a five to 10 per cent contingency plan. And you may find yourself with some savings on things like the cost of labour.” Hall adds, “When it comes to food and beverage renovations, be sure to involve your employees in the renovation plans. Since they’re there every day and they work in the environment, they know how it works best – and how function could improve.” In the end, says Gulevich, you have to commit to a long-term vision. “If you’re looking to try and recoup your money on a strict timeline, it might not be the right choice,” he says. “Quite often you’re going to be in for some surprises – but that shouldn’t stop you.” Inspiring Service - Growing Value

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Power to the People An agreement between ENMAX Energy and AHLA helps ensure peace of mind surrounding your power bill FLUCTUATING ENERGY RATES CAN HAVE A significant impact on hoteliers in Alberta – when rates change, budgets are put in flux. Because of this, the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has partnered with ENMAX Energy to provide members of the association with a fixed rate per kWh*, which means power bills you can budget for. “This affords [AHLA members] the ability to secure a competitive electricity rate* and limit their exposure to electricity market volatility,” says Pravesh Thathiah, account manager of the ENMAX Energy/AHLA Power Program. “If you can estimate your consumption and know what your fixed rate* is, your billing becomes more predictable.” The process is simple: AHLA members reach out to Thathiah at ENMAX, who will ask the member to complete a letter of interest. Members aren’t obligated to sign up. “I use this information to get historical data, usually whatever their usage is for the past year, and for a credit review,” says Thathiah. “Once I have the data, I will get back to them with a fixed rate

• Over 600 properties participate in the program to date • More than 40,000 AHLA member guest rooms are powered by Enmax Energy and the AHLA

that’s available for the property. The offer is valid for that day, since power is traded daily as a commodity.” Thathiah notes that,“There are members who are currently not taking advantage of the program, possibly because they may not know they have access to AHLA wholesale electricity rates just by being a member,” he says. “When you join this program, you have access to group rates as opposed to paying as an individual property. The ENMAX Energy wholesale rate is based on aggregate buys of participating members.” The Power Program was initiated in 2010, when ENMAX Energy offered wholesale electricity rates to AHLA members. The objective was to limit member exposure to electricity market volatility through competitive rates from ENMAX Energy. With Alberta’s deregulated energy marketplace, hotels without a chosen energy retailer can find themselves exposed to regulated or default rates, which fluctuate monthly with mar-

ket conditions. The Power Program, which was negotiated specifically to ensure members receive flexible terms and conditions, offers expertise and guidance when developing energy plans, with the added benefits of group wholesale rates. *Some conditions, administration, termination, other fees and taxes beyond the electricity rate also apply.

Learn More: For more information, or to inquire about joining the ENMAX Energy/ AHLA Power Program, email Libby van Rossum at

BENEFITS INCLUDE: • Access to a third-party energy consultant, legal representation through AHLA and ongoing consulting during the program. • Revenue from the program is used to support AHLA government relations initiatives. • Group wholesale competitive pricing, audited by a third-party consultant who advises on energy market conditions in Alberta. • An experienced ENMAX Energy account manager as a direct contact for queries and billing. • Renewable energy options. Members can add a customized amount of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to their agreement. Access to solar and combined heat projects are also available through the program.

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The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association



Put to the Test The Employer of Choice Guide helps human resources departments achieve excellence BY LISA CATTERALL



program has recognized hotels who meet the highest standards in human resource practices. Based on the information collected through the EoC program, the AHLA has compiled a guide to provide potential applicants with guidance based on current practices across the province. “We want to know who’s going above and beyond – for example, in terms of employee recognition, we see some employers go the extra mile with lunches and gifts. The EoC designation shows employees that employers care for them,” says Zainub Siddiqui, Human Resources Coordinator at the AHLA. Over the past two years, Siddiqui has helped develop the program and increased awareness of it across the province. In that time, the criteria for the designation have changed based on practices encouraged by the Human Resources Institute of Alberta. These increasingly rigorous criteria and the thorough application process encourage applicants to continually rise to higher standards of excellence. “Everything we are audited on becomes a tool that helps our general managers run our properties more efficiently, consistently, and effectively,” says Monica Batt, Human Resources Manager at APX Hotels Group. “It’s been such a game changer with recruitment practices—it has already started to decrease our turnover in three of our markets. The benefits of this program, and what it forces employers to have in place in order to receive the designation, is beneficial on so many levels.” The program requires applicants to complete an extensive online audit, which examines a number of key HR indicators including talent management, employee relations, and workforce planning. In addition to this audit, a percentage of employees must complete a feedback survey, which is also taken into account during the adjudication process. Applicants then receive feedback on current practices, including ways to improve and qualify in future years. “Everyone gets a detailed report saying how they can improve and, if they don’t qualify, they get feedback on how to become an EoC,” says Siddiqui. Inspiring Service - Growing Value

“It really helps align our human resources policies with what our staff memebers actually need and want. The information we get is so valuable,” adds Batt. “It sends a message to our staff about the type of company we are and the type of company we want to be. It demonstrates our commitment to excellent employee service delivery.” The audit process also provides the AHLA with ideas on innovative methods for excellence. Realizing the value of this information, Siddiqui and members of the AHLA’s HR team created the EoC Guide that will be available online for members. “We see the answers from the audit and we contact the hotels that have given answers that blow us away. We’ve gathered those answers to create this toolkit and give other employers an idea of what properties are doing to go above and beyond,” says Siddiqui. In past years, employers have impressed the AHLA with practices such as weekly team breakfasts, employee recognition in newsletters, referral bonuses for current employees, and job shadow programs for new employees. “We want as many properties as possible to have access to the information they need so they can participate in the program,” she says. “We’re currently updating the guide and it will be available June 1.”

CONSIDERING YOUR HR PRACTICE The ten human resources indicators that are measured in the EoC audit: • • • •

Strategy Professional practice Engagement Workforce planning and talent management • Labour and employee relations

• Total rewards • Learning and development • Health, wellness and safety in the workplace • HR metrics reporting • Financial management

For more information on the program, toolkit, or information sessions, visit the AHLA EoC website at

Spring 2016




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The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association

Olds College teams up with government and industry to help build an online program for hospitality and tourism BY MICHELLE LINDSTROM / PHOTOGRAPHY BY COOPER + O’HARA



and Tourism Management diploma that was once housed at Red Deer College. The plan was to transform it from top to bottom, and only months later, the school launched a refurbished 14-month accelerated diploma that benefited from strong industry input. Now, the provincial government, Olds College, and the AHLA are joining forces again – this time to revolutionize the training side of Alberta’s third-largest industry: hospitality and tourism.

Inspiring Service - Growing Value

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Cover STORY For Dewling, the combination of bite-sized video-based learning and online testing is what separated this initiative from other online educational tools.

BY MAKING TRAINING MORE ACCESSIBLE to frontline staff, the opportunities are endless for employees to upgrade their skills and advance their careers in this industry – and with their advancement comes development and investment in the industry as a whole. For this reason, Alberta Culture and Tourism has contributed $500,000 to the development of the program. Campus Alberta Central has also invested $200,000 in the development of three short certificates, which will be the basis of the program and future videos. “Our future prosperity depends on creating jobs and diversifying the economy,” Minister Miranda said to the audience at the Olds event. “Supporting mobile training is an important investment in new technology that will enhance student learning and ongoing professional development for our tourism workforce.” And with hospitality and tourism as the third-largest economic driver in Alberta, just behind oil and gas, and agriculture, it makes a lot of sense for the government to strategically invest in education within the tourism industry as a whole. In early February 2016, Alberta Culture and Tourism, Olds College, and the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) made their partnership official at a well-attended event at Olds. Jason Dewling, Vice-President Academic and Research at Olds College, was the event’s MC and shared the announcement with co-speakers Hon. Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dave Kaiser, President and CEO of the AHLA, and H.J. Tom Thompson, President of Olds College. Through a new project, Olds has turned the core elements of its Hospitality and Tourism Management program into short, three- to five-minute videos, broken down by specific topics and levels of learning to be ready for students in fall 2016. Since many people in management roles find it difficult to work and upgrade their education simultaneously, the move will provide a flexible learning environment and will eventually enable students to take tests and assess their skills online.

“THE NO. 1 NEED FOR MANY YEARS IN THIS industry has been recruitment and retention

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of workers,” says Dewling, noting that 120,000 Albertans work in the industry and very few are able to take a year or two off work to go to school and upgrade their skills. With this knowledge, Olds decided it was best to bring learning to the employees instead, but not with just another binder full of information. “Anybody can photocopy something and pass along curriculum, but this is a way in which if you have an ambitious employee, or it’s a slow night and you’re trying to upgrade your staff, you can access engaging curriculum,” Dewling says. Plus, younger generations already consume a lot of information through video, and more can be communicated through video than just text alone. “If they just want to learn for the sake of learning, that’s fine, but if they want to advance themselves with more credential attainment, they’ll have pathways to certificates and eventually diplomas if they choose it,” Dewling says. “These short videos will lead to credits that will lead to courses that will lead to credentials.”

“You hire people and they’re excited about the work, but if you don’t provide them with the proper skills there’s a chance they’re going to get disillusioned, creating greater staff turnover, and of course guests are on the other side of that.” The program aligns with AHLA’s priorities as well: “Our contribution to the project is half a million dollars, which is far and away the most significant investment we’ve made into the people-development side of the business,” says Dave Kaiser, the Association’s president. “I see this as a very important way to set our workforce up for success,” Kaiser adds. The AHLA is also part of the council that provides input and curriculum feedback for the new The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association


BETTER TOGETHER: Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ricardo Miranda (left), Olds College President Tom (H.J.) Thompson (centre), and AHLA President Dave Kaiser gather to announce Olds’ new digital training program.

program. “You hire people and they’re excited about the work, but if you don’t provide them with the proper skills and competencies to be successful, there’s a greater chance they’re going to get disillusioned, creating greater staff turnover, and of course guests are on the other side of that.” Kaiser says the Association partnered with Olds on this project as part of a strategic decision to grow tomorrow’s workforce. “There are a couple of things we hope for over time with this program,” Dewling adds, “that it will professionalize the whole industry to a higher standard and it will improve both recruitment and retention to this industry for the employer.”

“Clearly this is a very innovative program,” says Kaiser. “We’re certainly excited about the potential of it. “We’ve got a real opportunity with tourism in this province – as tough as things are province-wide in the energy sector, tourism is one of the bright spots,” he says. “And this program is really part of our product development: investing in the service that visitors and guests to Alberta are going to experience and knowing that experience is probably the best marketing that we can have today because it gets shared out though social media and more; it’s vitally important that we address this.”

See for the five-minute video that provides an overview of the program’s reach: all four corners of the province and beyond.

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Sweet Home

Providing excellent staff housing is key for retaining employees at remote Alberta hotels



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Alberta’s landscape attracts tourists from all over the world, and these guests require the best hospitality that the province has to offer. But hiring and retaining stable, high-quality staff in remote locations is no easy task, and having good quality staff accommodation often sets superior employers apart from the rest. For hotels located in national parks, this is especially true. Brianna Hardman oversees all staff accommodation at the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre in Jasper. The hotel’s staff accommodation facility has been around since the hotel was built and has received many updates and improvements over time. Hardman has lived in staff accommodation before so she has first-hand experience of what makes staff housing stand out— and what to avoid. “They’re not always very nice,” says Hardman about staff quarters, “so we try to do our best.” For Sawridge staff, accommodation consists of an apartment complex separate from the hotel’s lodging, and each room is repainted and cleaned when someone moves out. Each suite is home to two employees and is fully furnished with a shared bathroom and kitchen amenities. “They’re just as important as our guests,” says Hardman about staff comfort. Hardman does her best to improve the quality of life for staff whenever possible. “We have a program called Your Voice,” she says. “Any time an employee or a manager has a really great idea, we want to hear it and they can come to us.” For example, employees once requested a treadmill be put into the staff apartment so everyone could exercise. “So we actually turned one of our apartment rooms into a gym,” says Hardman. Now staff members have on-site gym access, which has increased their happiness and healthiness. “If you’re happy in your personal life, you’re going to be happier to come to work,” she says. Over in Banff National Park, Monique Donn-Patterson supervises staff lodging for Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort. The resort is located at an altitude of 7,200 feet and is only accessible via gondola. The ski season stretches from the beginning of November to the end of May, but in the summer, tourists can enjoy beautiful hikes along the mountain. Providing staff housing is a vital component of keeping this resort running smoothly. Only staff who need to be available to guests at all times live on site, while the rest are provided with housing in the town of Banff. “It’s a very isolated location,” says Donn-Patterson. “You live in the national park and you see the aurora borealis all the time, and that by itself is just stunning.” Donn-Patterson emphasizes the importance of providing activities and entertainment for those living in staff housing: she organizes regular get-togethers, theme nights, and bingo. “We have events that everyone can take part in,” says Donn-Patterson, “Like dog sledding or going to Calgary to watch hockey – anything we can do to keep everyone entertained and make the season worthwhile.” Of course, Hardman and Donn-Patterson are also aware of some of the common mistakes hotels make with their staff housing programs:

alcohol. Having some alcohol-free events helps staff maintain a healthy lifestyle and assures that there are activities that non-drinkers can participate in.

LINKING IT TO THE HOTEL: Hardman suggests that hotels give their staff accommodation facility a name. For example, the Sawridge’s accommodation is called Pyramid Heights. “On their leases it doesn’t say ‘staff accommodation,’ ” says Hardman. “I find that can be a barrier for staff, especially when it comes to getting drivers licences and things like that.”

CHARGING TOO MUCH: Both Hardman and Donn-Patterson also mention the importance of keeping the cost of staff accommodation low. “Accommodation is hard to find in Banff and it’s very expensive,” says Donn-Patterson. Hardman echoes the same thing about Jasper: “It’s already expensive to live here.” Consequently, providing affordable housing can be a significant way to retain good employees. Employees at both Sunshine Village and the Sawridge come from all over the world and, when starting their jobs, many are visiting Alberta for the first time. Hardman and Donn-Patterson both believe it’s important to ensure that staff experience the beauty of Alberta and have a positive experience, not just working but also living. For Hardman, this means building a warm and accessible relationship with staff that live on site. She’s proud to be the first person to greet new people moving into staff housing. “I come out and do a little meet and greet and tell them about myself and then I help them move in,” she says. “I work as a liaison, help them unpack, and take them into town if they need to go grocery shopping.” Staff can reach Hardman if they have a question or need help. “It makes it a little bit less scary,” she says. Similarly, Donn-Paterson remembers what it was like to move from her home country of Australia to Banff. “[Staff housing] is just such a good place to meet people,” she says. “There are so many people in the same situation you’re in, travelling overseas on this big adventure.”

“If you’re happy in your personal life, you’re going to be happier to come to work.”

PARTY TIME: Donn-Patterson points out that it’s a good idea to provide entertainment and activities for staff that don’t always involve Inspiring Service - Growing Value

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the Comfort Inn & Suites in Bonnyville, Evelyn Mondares is a veteran of the hotel industry. But growing up in Medellin, a northern municipality on the small island of Cebu in the Philippines, Mondares would have never predicted where the hospitality industry would take her. “I never thought of working abroad because I knew that it would be challenging,” she says. “I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it.” As the fourth of five daughters, Mondares grew up in a close-knit, supportive family that worked long hours to provide for each other’s education. Her mother in particular was determined to see her daughters succeed.

“But no matter how difficult it was, I knew I had a purpose and that I could do it.” “She basically sacrificed everything for everyone in the family,” Mondares says. “So I keep her in my heart whenever I’m facing a challenge. My family gives me the strength to always move forward.” With the help and support of her family, Mondares obtained a bachelors degree in business administration from Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Philippines. She then began working in the service industry, selling industrial goods and working in a bakery Inspiring Service - Growing Value

before moving on to sales and marketing for a restaurant. Eventually, she found herself working in management at the Crown Regency Cebu City, first as the food and beverage manager and then as the sales manager. Management roles in the hotel industry suited her well – she was able to apply the knowledge she had gained in school and she discovered a passion for working with people. So when the opportunity to work abroad arose, Mondares was hesitant. The opportunity was for a kitchen helper, which meant leaving behind her managerial role. But she knew that this job would be the key to further opportunities in hospitality. “I wanted to return the favour to my mother for the years of hard work that had led to my education, but I was so hesitant to take the job, to work my way up again,” she says. “But no matter how difficult it was, I knew I had a purpose and that I could do it.” The move was a difficult one. Leaving her family and country, and taking on a new job in a strange country was a difficult change. “The first few nights being in Canada were so difficult. I experienced a lot of culture shock and felt homesick,” she says. Over time she adjusted, participating in training programs to continuously challenge herself and grow. She worked a range of jobs—first as a kitchen helper, then in the housekeeping department where she worked her way up to become a supervisor, before becoming a day auditor. She even opened her own business for some time before she returned to the hotel industry as assistant general manager. Through it all, she’s remained motivated.

“I’ve kept a receptive heart and tried to stay open to opportunities that God would lead me into. At first, when the opportunity to become the general manager here in Bonnyville came up, I was cautious. I had that kind of role when I was in the Philippines and I knew it was a big responsibility to manage people. I knew I could do it, though.” Mondares has used the job as an opportunity to support her colleagues, fostering their growth and professional development. “I try to share my learnings and experience with the staff I work with. I want to motivate them to find their passion and show them that they can be the general manager one day too, if they want,” she says.

A HELPING HAND Mondares’ journey to become a permanent resident in Canada has inspired her to help those around her. In her free time, she studies the process and regulations of immigration, and strives to help members of Bonnyville’s Filipino community in acquiring residency and completing paperwork to support their immigration to Canada. “I would love to be an immigration consultant one day,” she says. “Because for those who don’t ask for help, coming to Canada, working here, and applying for visas, can be difficult. I often see other foreign workers experiencing the same difficulties that I went through, and I just want to help them.”

Spring 2016





There’s Plenty to Do... Okotoks celebrates its centennial with old-fashioned charm, many attractions and a town slogan that went viral BY WILLOW WHITE


CLOSER LOOK AT THE ADS ON THE SIDE OF Calgary’s CTrain system had some people laughing in September 2015. A banner on the side proclaimed: “There are a number of things to do in Okotoks” – a marketing campaign that went viral on social media. While not exactly what town officials had in mind when they came up with the slogan, they were elated to see conversation about the community take off while prompting the question: Well, what exactly is there to do in Okotoks? The community, located south of Calgary, sits along the

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Sheep River and is an important site of provincial and national heritage. In 1874, a trading post was established along the river where early immigrants looking for the promise of Canada would later settle. In 1916, the community became known as Okotoks. Today, with a population of just over 28,000, Okotoks is small enough to offer the charm of an intimate cottage community, but large enough to provide activities and attractions for everyone. Rich with history, natural beauty, and a strong arts community, Okotoks is a must-visit location, especially during its centennial year of celebration.

The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association FUEL UP BISTRO 1882, A COMMUNITY FAVOURITE, IS LOCATED IN THE TOWN’S original post office, first built in the early 1880s when Okotoks was still called Sheep Creek. The intimate restaurant seats 20 people and serves gourmet dishes like beef bourguignon and braised lamb shank. If you’re looking to imbibe, it boasts an impressive offering of French, Italian, and Chilean wines. For a more relaxed environment, THE HEARTLAND CAFÉ offers good coffee, wine, and casual fare. Also located in a heritage building, the café was converted from an old church. Heartland serves a brunch menu that plays on old favourites, and visitors can choose between items like peanut butter waffles or chorizo sausage hash. Kid-friendly dishes like mac and cheese and burgers are also available. Casual pub food, like steak, pizza, and various burgers, is offered at THE GEORGE. This is the place to settle down with a hearty plate of wings and a pint of stout. After dinner, the best ice cream cone in Okotoks is found at BIG DIPPER ICE CREAM SHOP located on McRae Street. It serves over 35 flavours of local ice cream and gelato from Foothills Creamery and Fiasco Gelato, and is open seven days a week. GET OUT OKOTOKS IS THE IDEAL LOCATION TO SEE THE NATURAL BEAUTY OF southern Alberta. The “Big Rock” or, to use scientific terminology, THE OKOTOKS ERRATIC, has marked the territory for millions of years. A natural phenomenon, the rock was transported from its original location by a sheet of melting glacial ice. Today, visitors can find the rock located off Highway 7 with a family-friendly path leading to the compelling, natural landmark. The surrounding area, known as THE SHEEP RIVER VALLEY, can be explored by foot and offers beautiful views and sunsets. While baseball may be the great American pastime, residents of Okotoks prove that Albertans can be baseball enthusiasts too. THE OKOTOKS DAWGS, the town’s collegiate summer baseball team, play games throughout the spring and summer at the $8-million Seaman Stadium, built in 2007. Thousands of fans flock to each game to cheer on their home team. From the stadium seats, visitors can see the Rocky Mountains and a vast expanse of the Alberta skyline. If you’re looking for a more active sporting activity, there are three golf courses in the area: D’Arcy Ranch, Crystal Ridge and River’s Edge. For more cultural activities, check out the DEWDNEY PLAYERS, Okotoks’s theatre group. The group stages a number of performances at the town theatre – a church turned performing arts space. Plays on the 2016 bill include Cinderella and It’s a Wonderful Life. After the show, visitors can walk around Olde Towne, Okotoks’ historic strip of heritage buildings, and visit boutique shops and the Okotoks Art Gallery.

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LEVEL 2 Complete Hazard Assessment and Control training and a Training/Orientation session

LEVEL 3 Complete Inspections and Emergency Response Planning training, Incident Investigation training and OHSMS Program Review/Maintenance


REST Okotoks has two superb AHLA lodging options for those looking to turn their day trip into a weekend getaway. Lakeview Inn & Suites Okotoks, 22 Southridge Dr p: 403-938-7400

Ask us for more information today!

Okotoks Country Inn, 59 Riverside Gate p: 403-938-5443

1 (800) 649-1242

Inspiring Service - Growing Value


A Mentor in the Making By working her way through the ranks, Sonja Cuthbert became an invaluable mentor in Alberta and beyond PHOTOGRAPH BY JARED KELLY



college in 1993 and 1994 to earn my diplomas in hospitality management and operations, business management, and travel and tourism, I started my career as a Sales and Catering Assistant at the Holiday Inn Vancouver Centre – an entry level position. Beginning at an entry level position is where I started to learn and gain my floor experience. I soon moved on to the Holiday Inn Vancouver Downtown, where I was the Catering and Food Services Manager, before I went into revenue and reservation management. This was a great opportunity to stay at the same hotel and really learn the front desk management, reservation, and revenue management divisions of the hotel. It reinforced my knowledge that in any department you have to be part of a team and a team player – so it wasn’t difficult for me to accomplish; it was just learning a whole different revenue stream, which was very exciting. I have always considered the Holiday Inn Vancouver Downtown the best training hotel that I have experienced during my career. The Vice-President of the Western Region of Atlific Hotels back then was my biggest mentor over the eight years I was there. He always had the time to stop, teach and encourage with a good joke and a laugh. He always challenged us to “think outside the box” and do what we could to “wow” our guests. He was our team motivator and our leader. Every day I try to be the manager that he was. He was one of the best. There’s one thing that sticks in my head, even today. He once said to me, “Doll, the day that you stop having fun is the day that you

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get out.” It’s a tough job, but it’s rewarding and I love it. After Vancouver, I moved to Osoyoos, B.C., and helped open another Atlific property, Walnut Beach Resort. I was there for six summers as Director of Operations. I oversaw the food and beverage department, was the on-site wedding planner, and Revenue and Operations Manager. Walnut is where I took everything I learned at the Holiday Inn Vancouver Downtown. We did well over 200 weddings. To be part of that experience – you’re dealing with brides for up to a year in advance, there are still weddings to this day that I remember, families that adopted our team by the time we were done – it’s a very special thing being part of their special day. I came out to the Days Hotel and Suites in Lloydminster in December 2013, as it was our off-season in Osoyoos, and I ended up staying as the General Manager. I’ve been here for two and a half years. An important thing that I always keep in mind is that your team will only work as hard as you do. The people that work with me today, and that 7974_ECOSTAY_MainStay_Dollco.pdf 1 as2016-03-09 have worked with me in the past, work as hard I do. I think 10:00 one ofAMmy biggest accomplishments is being able to be a part of these teams and

being able to mentor them during their careers. Team members now tell me I’m their mentor, and I’m thinking, when did that happen? As I look back, it seems not so long ago that I was the one being mentored. I love Lloydminster and I love my team. They are one of the most hard-working and committed teams I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. When I look back, I still remember the very first hotel that I worked at. When I was promoted from the Sales and Catering Assistant to the Catering Co-ordinator and Banquet Manager, I went up to thank the GM for the opportunity. He looked at me and he said, “I can teach you the skills but I can’t teach the passion, attitude, or drive you have to succeed.” To this day I would rather hire someone who’s green and has no hospitality background – but has the passion and commitment to learn – rather than someone who’s been in the field for 20 years and it’s just a blasé job to them. This is a very special industry. You’re either all in or you’re not.

He always knew when it was time for him to come down and crack a really good joke and keep the team motivated. Every day I try to be the manager that he was. He was one of the best.

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Parting SHOT

Cast in Stone

AN INUK LANDMARK BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER The David Kootook Inukshuk, located in downtown Edmonton, honours David Kootook – who saved the life of medevac pilot Martin Hartwell in Yellowknife and lost his own in the process, in 1972. Kootook was being flown from Cambridge Bay, N.W.T., with another passenger and Hartwell as pilot when their plane crashed. By building shelter, starting a fire and fishing for food, Kootook’s work helped Hartwell survive long enough to be rescued. The Inukshuk is part memorial, part art installation, and was created by artist Wayne McKenzie to symbolize the values we all share. Each year, AHLA directors are recognized and presented with an Inukshuk for their service to the organization and its members.

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Do you have a fantastic photo you’d like published in the next issue of Mainstay? Submit it to or mail it to: 2707 Ellwood Drive SW Edmonton AB T6X 0P7

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Mainstay - Spring 2016  

The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association.

Mainstay - Spring 2016  

The Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association.