Metropolitan Hotel, Vancouver

Canada may seem a long way from Finland, but for Kari Koskela, GM of the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver, landing on the West Coast six months ago after a stint at the Ritz-Carlton Washington felt like coming home. And with good reason — back in the 1990s, the 41-year-old spent several years in Vancouver working at the Delta Pinnacle and the Four Seasons.

As someone who’s always had an affinity for travel, and a career that led him to work in six countries on three continents, it’s all part of a day’s work. In fact, it was his love of travel that propelled the affable hotelier into the hospitality industry. Koskela was initially bitten by the hotel bug while working at the Intercontinental Hotel in Helsinki, after he completed high school and his military service. “I was trying to figure out what to do when I grew up,” he recalls. After he graduated from the Hotel Management School Les Roches in Switzerland, Koskela knew a career as a hotelier was his calling card to see the world.

Now married with two children, Koskela returned to Vancouver just as the city was preparing to roll out the welcome mat for the world at the 2010 Winter Games. With a successful Olympics in the rearview mirror, Koskela says he can now focus on the basics of running the luxurious 197-room hotel.

He is also currently immersed in a variety of initiatives. “We’re constantly looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly,” he says, pointing to the company’s “Going Green” program, which debuted in March. The company has also made recent upgrades to its meeting/catering rooms and brought on board a new executive chef, Quang Dong, previously of Vancouver’s renowned C Restaurant. Dong is “in the process of building his team to establish Diva at the Met as the number 1 restaurant in the city,” says the high-aiming GM. Once business levels bounce back, the hotel will also be renovating its suites.

Though he’s excited by the upgrades, he’s been around long enough to know success is always contingent on stellar service. “It’s about delivering on what you promise and having an effective online presence, in addition to the traditional ways of marketing.” As an independent hotel, he says his property has an advantage. “It allows us to offer true local experiences, whether you’re staying with us, attending a meeting at the hotel or dining at our restaurant.”

These days, Koskela says his biggest challenge is maintaining rate integrity. “Vancouver has many internationally recognized brands, but we need to ensure we get our fair share of the business.” To achieve this, he makes sure he’s “visible, hands-on and approachable” for the 140 staff he oversees. And that type of calm, common sense and reasonable approach to leadership has proven successful. “I’ve learned to relate to and appreciate people from different backgrounds,” he says.

But whether he’s honing his skills as a hotelier in his native Finland or his adopted home of Canada, the tenets of hospitality remain the same: “Make every guest feel special, so that they’ll come back again and again.”


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