Growing up as a teenager in Ottawa, Alison Hunter was immersed in the world of sports. As a high-performance athlete, she landed a summer job as a lifeguard at the Delta Ottawa. “I was 16 years old but quickly re-deployed to family-fun concierge which was incredibly fun.”
The mother of two young boys aged three and seven instantly fell in love with the hotel industry. She even contemplated enrolling in the hotel and restaurant management at Algonquin College. But her desire to continue to play water polo at an elite level won out and she opted to attend Carleton University instead, all the while continuing to work in the industry. After university, she spent five years working with Marriott before opening the Hilton Garden Inn Ottawa Airport as its director of Sales & Marketing, where she spent “13 wonderful years.”
These days, the hands-on hotelier calls the 140-room Hyatt Place Ottawa her home, having recently celebrated the hotel’s first-year anniversary. “I came on board two years ago to begin the purchasing, planning and hiring for the hotel. Our hotel is truly unique. Our local owners care so much about the community they operate in as well as the environment.” The hotel has 225 solar panels, uses geo-thermal earth energy to heat and cool the building, and has 50,000 buzzing resident bees on the roof pollinating the flowers in the area.
“We want to support local as much as possible,” says Hunter. “All of our case goods in the rooms were manufactured in New Brunswick. All our purchases are guided with supporting local in mind and, if we can buy local, we do.” She’s quick to emphasize the importance of her team of 50. “We could not do anything without each and every one of them and we try to show them our appreciation as often as we can. Our team mantra is #teamworkmakesthedreamwork.”
As the hotel was built during the pandemic, construction challenges were the order of the day. The hotel was shut down twice under government mandate and twice due to outbreaks. “But we endured and opened on May 27, 2021. Even then, we opened under an essential travel only restriction. Since then, we’ve adapted to each change in the government recommendations. We learned how to deal with staff shortages and supply-chain issues as well as a myriad of other COVID-related issues. But as word gets out about the hotel, and travel resumes, business is quickly returning and occupancy continues to grow. As the saying goes, “you should judge your success by the difficulty you had to overcome in order to achieve it.”
By Rosanna Caira