As a child growing up in her family’s hotel business in Nova Scotia, Donica Wilkie-Morrow always believed the hotel industry was her natural path. A graduate of the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth, Wilkie-Morrow got her professional start at the historic Digby Pines Resort in Digby, N.S., where she tended bar for three years. “I enjoyed the atmosphere of working at the resort. Everyone was there to enjoy themselves and relax. It was fun and exciting meeting guests from all over the world,” she says.
Today, as GM of the Home2 Suites by Hilton in west Edmonton, Wilkie-Morrow oversees a team of 22 associates who take care of 127 rooms (115 studio and 12 one-bedroom suites). Though the hotel flies the Hilton flag, her employer is Vancouver-based SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts, the hotel’s management company, with whom she has worked since 2011. “I’ve been through three hotel openings for the company, prior to opening Home2,” which opened in July 2014. “It’s the first Home2 Suites by Hilton in Canada,” explains the hotelier. “It’s a true extended-stay property, with a full fridge, microwave, dishwasher and induction units for guests to cook in their studios.” The hotel also offers amenities such as a saline pool, BBQ patio and front patio with a fire bowl where guests can sit, relax and socialize.
The hotel’s clientele includes those who have relocated to new jobs and are looking for housing; clients on training or project work; and guests who travel into the city on a monthly basis. “They come from all over, as far away as the U.K., Australia and the U.S., to as close as inside the province for a family getaway.”
Not surprisingly, guests treat the hotel as their home away from home. “Whether it’s for two nights or eight months, guests enjoy the ‘Free-to-be-You’ atmosphere and culture,” says Wilkie-Morrow. “We get to know our guests on a personal level and enjoy interacting with them; celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. They become part of our Home2 family during their stay.” The hotel is also pet friendly. “Guests who travel with their pets are so appreciative of having a place to bring their four-legged family members with them when they travel.”
The team is constantly looking to give back to the community and innovate. In addition to raising more than $10,000 for the local Humane Society, the hotel also launched the “I am Sales” program in March to drive business leads. “The results have been impressive for such a new program. Our front desk team has produced over 99 leads since starting the program and the conversion rate has been over 41 per cent with future extended-stay business.”
Wilkie-Morrow says it’s important to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. “It’s about service and making sure you’re ready and capable of meeting guest needs. It’s about making things right for guests when they’re having a bad day, even if it may have nothing to do with your hotel.
Volume 48, Number 1