The love of hospitality was embedded in Alex Kassatly from a young age. “As part of a Middle Eastern family, I always enjoyed my parents’ hospitality, the way they entertained — it’s part of the culture,” says the hotelier. When it came time to choosing a career, Kassatly originally wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, an engineer. But a part-time job at Le Château Champlain during the 1976 Montreal Olympics inspired the native of Lebanon to study hospitality management at Concordia University instead. After also receiving his Diplôme d’etudes collegiales, (Building Engineer Technology program at Vanier College) he strengthened his hospitality education by enrolling in the hospitality program at Cornell University and Guelph University.
“Walking in the Château Champlain the first day as a waiter, I was overwhelmed and inspired by the smiles and emotions of the waitstaff and manager. It didn’t take long before I realized that’s where I belonged.”
Today, as GM of the award-winning 95-room Auberge Saint-Antoine, Kassatly says his dream has come true. “I’m part of a Relais & Châteaux property that focuses on its invited guests that feel at home, by expecting them, pampering them and anticipating their needs.”
The father of three says his mission “is to be the leading luxury Relais & Châteaux hotel in Quebec and Canada for today’s leisure traveller who appreciates worldly style with local inspirations. Our hotel philosophy is family, creativity, respect, humility, passion and authenticity.”
Kassatly oversees a team of 160. Three years after the pandemic hit, the hotel is slowly building back. “We’re proud to say 80 per cent of our colleagues are back. The big takeaway is no one should take staff for granted — they are an invaluable asset; we need to always invest in their wellbeing, learning and development.”
He is buoyed by the fact that in 2022, demand was positive, with an average rate increase of $45 over 2019 and a $20 increase on RevPAR from 2019. He’s looking forward to expanding the hotel’s footprint in 2023. “The Price family (owners of the hotel) have purchased the Union Bank heritage building adjacent to Auberge Saint-Antoine. There will be an additional 25 large rooms and suites, a 120-seat ballroom, and a rooftop restaurant and bar, giving the guest a 360-degree view of Quebec City and the majestic St Lawrence River.”
Kassatly is a big believer in leading by listening to his colleagues and involving them in decision making. “It’s important to understand their issues while assisting them, respecting them and treating them as we treat guests.” At the end of the day, it’s important “to go back to the basics and remind ourselves why we exist – to care and deliver passionate service from the heart.”
BY ROSANNA CAIRA