Even as a child, Didier Luneau knew he wanted to work in hotels. “I was fascinated by the hotel lobbies that I could glimpse from the street,” recalls the GM of the Westin Calgary.
At 15, the Versailles, France-born hotelier enrolled at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Hospitality School near Paris. But it wasn’t until his first weekend and summer job as a busboy that his fascination with hotelkeeping took hold. “My first real hotel job was housekeeping supervisor at Le Méridien Montparnasse in Paris. “These jobs helped me develop my ability to connect with people, guests and associates.”
After spending 14 years at the Sheraton Montreal in a series of roles including hotel manager, Luneau arrived at the Westin Calgary in April 2011, ready to manage a complement of 265 associates and 525 rooms. “What sets this hotel apart is our strong culture and our associates’ engagement,” boasts the 43-year-old. “Year after year our satisfaction [scores] for associates’ engagement is [among] the top Starwood hotels.”
The hotel’s location in Canada’s resource capital means its core customers come from the oil and gas industry. “They stay with us from Monday to Thursday, are 40 and are mostly Canadian or American,” explains Luneau. Located in one of the top five ultimate sports cities in the world, the hotel also attracts a combination of sports events and leisure business on the weekend.
This month, the hotel is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the GM is commemorating the occasion by inviting Calgarians and out-of-town guests to write in and share their favourite hotel memories. Winning entries will be posted at the hotel’s Liquid Lounge for general viewing.
As a vital part of the community, the hotelier is a firm believer in giving back. “We have a very successful initiative called “La Table des Chefs” [The Chef’s Table]. As in every banquet operation, we produce three to five per cent more food than necessary [to avoid a] shortage during events. We freeze bread, meat, vegetables, soups and desserts that were not served to the guests, and once a week a local shelter picks up the food and adds it to their production. We were the first hotel to implement this initiative in Alberta two years ago, and we have provided close to 20,000 portions of food to our community.”
It’s clear a community of people are important to Luneau’s overall success. “In addition to having great brand and sales strategies, you also need to have the right associates to create emotional connections with the guests. Knowing guest preferences and personalizing our service according to these preferences is critical,” he says. “The real success behind any hotel or organization lies within the strength of its team. In business, as in sports, the most successful teams are the ones with talented individuals.”