SAVANNAH MORIN
Assistant Hotel Manager, The Drake Hotel

Savannah Morin has always had a special place in her heart for boutique hotels. Her love of the industry grew from her travels to England, where she spent time working in two hotels.

Upon returning to Canada, she was hired at The Drake as a guest-service agent. “As a growing hotel, I knew there would be lots of room to grow.” In a short time she moved into a lead and then a supervisory role, and is currently an assistant manager.

Her main focus, she says, is to create amazing guest experiences. “We want to make an impression so guests will remember us.”

As a millennial she also understands what her generation demands from a hotel experience. “They want brands that support what they do, are inclusive and share their values. As hoteliers we need to enforce that.”

 

KATHRYN GEE
Front-desk Duty Manager,  Sheraton Centre

Kathryn Gee took a unique path to a career in the hotel industry. Originally from the U.K., she worked for the West Yorkshire Police for seven years.  “I worked at the Angry Hotel,” she says. “It was like check-in, except no one wanted to be there.”

She says that experience taught her skills that helped her new career, such as communications skills, multi-tasking, understanding different cultures and dealing with hustle and bustle.

She came to Canada to study hospitality management at Humber College. “At school I gained an understanding of operations and how it works in the back of the house. That’s what I loved more than anything else.”

For Gee, the key to success in the industry is understanding how to make every person’s stay personal. “I’ve learned it’s the little things that count most.”

 

SHALIN PARIKH
Health and Wellness Manager,  Chelsea Hotel, Toronto

Shalin Parikh has always had a head for the business side of the hotel industry. He studied hospitality management in India before moving to Canada , where he completed a business-administration specialization in HR and finance at Humber College.

His first job in Canada was with a food travel-supply company at Pearson International Airport. As luck would have it, the HR manager there had held senior roles with Delta Chelsea Hotels.

Parikh has been with the Chelsea Hotel for three years, where he’s expanded his role and developed new programs to help improve employee engagement. “I was able to increase employee participation in surveys from 46 per cent to 95 per cent. That’s one of my biggest achievements.”

He says he’s always keen to learn and grow in his profession, which is why he took on the newly formalized Health-and-Wellness role last year. “This is helping to expand my knowledge and career progression. The best part is everything I have done in previous roles is carrying through.”

 

TYSON GHOSTKEEPER
Regional Director of Operations, Mouallem Management Group

At age 15, Tyson Ghostkeeper decided the hospitality industry was for him. At the time, he was working part-time helping with construction cleanup on the Best Western Bonnyville development in Alberta. When the hotel opened, he got a job in housekeeping and worked his way through multiple departments.

“One of the jokes I always made to my manager was that I would be running one of their hotels one day,” he says. His wish came true when he became a general manager at the St. Albert, Alta. property at the age of 21.

Fast forward to today and Ghostkeeper is now responsible for managing five Best Western properties in Alberta. He also joined the Best Western Future Leaders Group program with other up-and-coming leaders learning the management ropes.

“One of the things I’ve been most grateful for is that I’ve worked in just about every position. That experience helped me a lot when it came time to run my hotel. I am able to mentor my team because I can speak from experience.”

 

MAGGIE LABRECQUE
Assistant General Manager, Sales & Marketing Director, Hotel Travelodge Quebec City

Maggie Labrecque’s first hotel job was as a front-desk agent. After five months, she was promoted to room-division supervisor. Hungry for a new challenge, she moved to Hotel Travelodge Quebec City. Within a year she was promoted to her current position. Labrecque says the key to her success has been the opportunities to learn through others’ advice and experience. “Everyone has something to teach you. Staying open-minded is the best way to evolve. And the best way to be good at what you do is to love what you do.

 

JON MCKEON
Hotel Manager, The Drake Hotel

During his globetrotting days, John McKeon worked a number front-desk jobs at hotels to fund his adventures and decided a career in hospitality was for him.

Five years ago he joined The Drake as a night supervisor and worked his way up to the role of manager of the rooms division.

His passion for the industry is simple. “I just love people. I love talking to people, whether it’s sales teams, guests or staff. I guess you could say I’m a people pleaser.”

He admits he still has the travel bug, but is quite happy to stay where he is and learn all he can about operations so he can eventually reach his goal of becoming a general manager. “Obviously I have a lot to learn so I’m working on increasing my knowledge. The best thing about being at The Drake is that I can dip my feet into everything — guest services, food and beverage, budgeting, et cetera. I wouldn’t have been able to do that as quickly at a larger hotel.”

 

YATAN NIZZAR 
Director of Training,  Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Yatan Nizzar learned the hotel industry ropes through internship programs at hotels in Victoria and North Vietnam. After a short break from the industry, she wanted to get back to hotels. “But I knew it had to be an organization that was meaningful for me. Fairmont was the one that aligned with my values and also promoted growth and development.”

After graduating from Fairmont’s Leadership Development Program, she spent time as an assistant front-office manager, then as a manager in Boston. Nizzar was able to learn the industry from the ground up.

When an opening came up for a housekeeping manager at the Royal York, she returned to Toronto. “I have progressed a lot here and have been allowed to shape my career into what I want it to be,” she says.

 

Written By Denise Deveau

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