There’s a natural affinity between hotels and travel. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that many hoteliers have deep-rooted wanderlust. In fact, dig deeper into the life of an hotelier, and you’ll invariably find a nomadic soul. That clearly applies to Craig Norris-Jones. “While in high school, I was employed part time at the Empress Hotel in Victoria,” begins the hotelier. “Following high school, my focus was on saving enough money to travel; hotel work enabled me to save enough to do so,” he adds, pointing to travels through Southern Africa.
After joining CP’s Empress Hotel full time in 1974, Norris-Jones heeded advice from his GM and mentor to get formal training, which led to studies at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Not long after his graduation in 1978, Norris-Jones landed at Vancouver-based Coast Hotels where he helped expand the company into Western Canada and the U.S. Then, late last fall, the Edmonton native found a new home as GM of the Pan Pacific, which overlooks Vancouver’s stunning skyline. “The iconic Pan Pacific Vancouver is unique in its location and its status as the cornerstone development in the reshaping of Vancouver’s Coal Harbour,” boasts Norris-Jones.
What makes the hotel special, says Norris-Jones, is “the heartfelt passion the associates of the hotel have for service and care for the hotel.” The majestic views of Stanley Park and the North Shore don’t hurt either. “The jaw-dropping views from the Pan are two steps above any other,” boasts the hotelier of the property, which includes 503 guestrooms, including seven luxury suites overlooking the 270-degree views of the mountains, harbour and Stanley Park.
But, like most hoteliers, Norris-Jones’s biggest challenge is generating revenue. “The competition in Vancouver is fierce, so we have to meet the challenge head-on and then some.”
It may help that renovations are on the horizon at the hotel. “We’re fortunate to have a property that was well designed and constructed,” Norris-Jones says. “There were so many natural products installed in the original construction — Birdseye maple, marble, floor-to-ceiling glass, hardwood case goods in the guestrooms, crystal chandeliers; I could go on. Most of the suites and guestrooms are in excellent
shape, but the owners have always been serious about ensuring a proper upkeep and renovation schedule
To achieve operational success, the hotelier promotes a “be-prepared” service mantra to his team of 443 permanent and part-time associates. “You have to forecast accurately and ensure associates have the right equipment to do their jobs,” stresses Norris-Jones. “Similarly, staff needs to understand guests and anticipate their needs.” That means “being there,” physically and mentally. Logistics is key, the GM stresses. “Schedule accordingly; have the right staffing levels. The only thing worse than not enough staff, is having too many.”