Westin Prince Hotel, Toronto
When Ashok Baghel was a young boy his parents took him to see the Taj Mahal in their native India. While the eighth wonder of the world was fascinating to the nine-year-old, Baghel was more impressed with the local five-star hotel in which they stayed; it was then his career as a hotelier was sealed.
Years later when the New Delhi native moved from India to Toronto, he fed his passion for the hotel industry, graduating from the hotel management program at Toronto’s George Brown College. Eventually, he stepped into his first part-time job as student manager at Upper Canada College where he worked alongside the director of Food and Beverage. “I had the opportunity to learn about the workings of a large kitchen and dining-room facility in a very demanding environment,” recalls the 44-year-old.
That experience led to a summer job at Toronto’s L’Hôtel where Baghel learned the importance of teamwork to ensure smooth operation and high-quality performance. It’s a lesson he puts into practice every day as GM of the Westin Prince Hotel, where he leads 250 associates, including a leadership team of 20 and an executive team of six.
The iconic 388-room hotel is nestled on 15 acres of parkland in the heart of the GTA. Baghel made the move uptown three years ago after plying his trade at the Holiday Inn on King.
Since landing at the Prince, he has spearheaded a multi-million dollar reno, transforming the suburban oasis into a sleek and sophisticated space that could rival any downtown property. “The peaceful setting, comfortable and modern furnishings and excellence of Westin service, make the Prince a unique and memorable experience,” says the married father of two.
But that’s not all; during its long and storied history, the Prince has garnered myriad awards, including the Four Diamond CAA award for 34 consecutive years. While the Westin commitment to service excellence and innovation is well documented, Baghel says the chain focuses on service excellence by identifying opportunities for improvements. For example, a demand for healthier eating led to the introduction of a Super Foods menu, offering guests a selection of foods rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. “We also offer sustainable meeting packages, green initiatives throughout the entire hotel’s operation and a Chef’s table for private events,” explains Baghel. “We’re also currently looking into forging a partnership with a spa company to provide our guests with a more rejuvenating experience.”
These days, as the economy continues to present challenges, Baghel believes hoteliers need to be more flexible. For example, though corporate travel is slowly rebounding, the nature of business is becoming very last minute. “It makes planning more difficult than in the past,” he admits. Still, he says, “We need to consistently put our best foot forward. The first impression is important but we need to wow the guest from the moment they enter our hotel doors and then consistently and continuously meet their service needs.”