By Rosanna Caira
QUALICUM, B.C. ― The hotel world is saddened to learn of the sudden passing of John Williams on Aug. 19, 2022 after being diagnosed with glioblastoma only 11 weeks ago.
According to an obituary in The Globe and Mail on August 27, Williams was born in Tunbridge Wells, England in October 1943 and grew up in Salisbury, Wiltshire. He enjoyed a distinguished career in luxury hotel management around the world, including appointments as manager of the St. Regis Hotel in New York, the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, the Empress Hotel Victoria, and the Scottsdale Princess Hotel Arizona. He was named executive vice-president of Operations, Fairmont Hotels and executive vice-president, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Fairmont Hotels based in London.
Among his many accomplishments, Williams was Chairman, Crofton House School Vancouver, Chairman Royal British Columbia Museum, Chairman Tourism British Columbia, Chairman Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau, Global Fellow Duke of Edinburgh Award Program. He was also a proud recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for Public Service.
Since retiring from the hotel industry a few years ago, Williams divided his time between homes in Vancouver, Victoria, Qualicum Beach and Norfolk, England. He loved travelling the globe with his wife Susan, wintering in Australia and through the South Seas Islands. He was immensely proud of his London literary agent daughter Sarah and their annual visits to tennis grand slams in Wimbledon, Melbourne, Paris and New York were highlights.
John was a much-respected hotelier who forged life long relationships with many in the hotel industry. He was also a respected mentor to many aspiring hoteliers. His passing leaves a void in Canada’s tight-knit hotel community. Many who were touched by his humility, his depth of commitment and his love of hospitality took to social media to praise the legendary hotelier.
In a post on LinkedIn, David Woodward, executive director of Meetings & Convention, Tourism Calgary, stated, “In my 41-year hospitality career, I have been blessed with many mentors, but no more so than John Williams. He taught me, challenged me and inspired me. I am forever grateful for his leadership which instilled in me to never settle for mediocrity, be tenacious in all endeavours, with good manners, and respect for others.”
According to Geoffrey Allan, Montreal hotelier and hotel developer, “There are only a handful of extraordinary classic hoteliers who understood and could communicate the history and art of hospitality, while conveying an unwavering focus on delegated responsibility in such a way that you never wanted to fail him out of pure respect. A lesson learned from Mr. Williams was, “It’s not what people say. It’s why they say it. Indeed, the loss of a hospitality legacy and he can rest that he left his mark on so many.”
For Robert Mercure, GM, Destination Quebec, “[John] was one of the greatest hospitality leaders I ever had the fortune and pleasure to work and collaborate with. He will always remain a true inspiration to us all.”
At Williams’ request there will be no service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Oceanside Hospice Society in Qualicum. John is survived by his beloved wife of 50 years, Susan and his daughter, Sarah.