Inn at Laurel Point, Victoria
Ian Powell’s mother once told him, “You’re not a brain surgeon, so don’t take yourself too seriously.” It’s advice the respected hotelier never loses sight of as he leads his team of 200 employees at the scenic Inn at Laurel Point in beautiful Victoria, B.C.
In an age of big brands and corporate homogeneity, Powell says “it’s a breath of fresh air” to work for an independent hotel. “We are guided by who we are, what our guests want and whether we can make money at doing it,” he says.
That free-spirited approach also helps Powell win fans. One might say he knows a thing or two about spirit. The native of Leicestershire, England, also serves as a priest in the Anglican Church. “There are days when you can catch me around the inn in a clerical collar rather than a shirt and tie.” It’s not a typical sideline activity for a hotelier, but it’s a way for the father of two to balance his life while bringing a spiritual undertone to whatever he does.
The idyllic setting of Laurel Point also helps. Situated on a peninsula that separates Victoria’s inner and outer harbours, all of the hotel’s rooms have sublime seaside views. The hotel’s original Laurel Wing boasts 153 rooms, with balconies offering great vistas. “The Erickson Wing, designed by the late, world-famous architect Arthur Erickson, gives us what must be the most stunning rooms in B.C.,” says Powell. “And the property boasts Japanese-style grounds, providing a tranquil, spiritual setting.”
But regardless of how peaceful the surroundings, the hotelier admits that adjusting to society’s rapid pace of change is challenging. “The speed with which we went into the recession; the speed of technology; changing consumer preferences and last-minute decision making has me wondering if it can get any faster?”
Operating a successful hotel in this type of frenetic environment requires a keen understanding of what customers really want. With green initiatives top of mind, the Inn at Laurel Point recently became the first carbon-neutral hotel in B.C. “We’ve been working on it diligently for the last three years and reduced our footprint considerably,” says Powell. Nevertheless, there was still a small amount the property couldn’t deal with, so it signed on with Offsetters, a Vancouver-based company, which purchased those last carbon offsets so the inn could be neutral.
Eighteen months ago, the hotel also unveiled Aura Restaurant and Patio. “Executive chef (and captain of the Canadian Culinary Olympic team) Brad Horen and his team produce top-notch food and quality service,” says Powell. While the F&B program was updated, guest rooms were renovated and Powell embarked on an extensive retraining of his team. “We’re two-thirds through the repositioning of the Inn and there are a few things left to do,” he says, “but we’ve come out of interesting times and are being cautious as to the speed we move on this final portion.”
Ultimately, Powell is confident the changes will meet with customer approval. “They may come for leisure or business, but our guests have one thing in common — they’re looking to relax and enjoy the peace and serenity of our beautiful setting.”