Ameer Wakil always imagined he’d one day work in finance. But as fate would have it, the hospitality world beckoned instead. As the youngest son of George Wakil, former owner and founder of the Four-Diamond White Oaks Resort & Spa, Ameer was exposed to hotels at an early age, working as a busboy and waiter at the iconic Prince of Wales hotel while attending high school and university.
“It was hard work and I enjoyed the physically demanding, relentless effort [needed] to ensure you kept busy, worked hard to stay ahead of the game and did the best job you could.”
Thirty years later, the White Oaks has afforded him the only job he’s ever known. “What sets the hotel apart is our committed team working towards one common goal — to treat each guest as though the success of the business depends on that individual alone. That’s the foundation that continues to make White Oaks shine.”
Overseeing a team of 550 associates with 220 rooms, Wakil says his biggest challenge is “Keeping our rhythm in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment.” He believes every guest touchpoint can be a make-or-break experience — an opportunity to win or lose the repeat business that drives bottom-line performance.
For Wakil, success can only be achieved by a strong customer-service ethos dictated by a high level of employee engagement. “My personal vision is to treat each team member as though the success of the business depends on that individual alone. Our values and priorities of what is important when interacting with guests are always paramount.” The humble hotelier and CEO leads by example, never satisfied with anything less than perfection. “Try and try again until you get it right,” he says. To deal with the stress inherent in a 24/7 industry, he relies on family life as the best escape, along with an active, well-balanced lifestyle. “There’s no challenge we cannot overcome — mind over matter.”
Earlier this spring, the Ontario Hostelry Institute presented Wakil with a Gold Award for Hotelier of the Year. Not surprisingly, his days are packed, but he’s always looking to do more. “We like to contribute back in any way possible.” Most recently, his team started the “Save-the-Bees” initiative, housing three large beehives onsite, in which the team personally foster the care and nurturing of the bee process. “We also participate in a “Clean-the-World” initiative and have done so for several years now, providing discarded amenities to benefit countries in need.” The White Oaks also boasts an electric car-charging station available to guests.
Not content to rest on the hotel’s laurels, the property is undergoing renovations with plans to open a new restaurant. “You have to continue to demonstrate your strength by reinventing, cultivating and inspiring. You must provide a memorable experience that goes beyond just the physical building.”