The words “fun” and “energy” seem to come up quite often in conversations with Bill Lewis. The GM of the Magnolia Hotel & Spa in Victoria, B.C. is an entrepreneur at heart. He’s also adamant about not accepting the status quo as good enough. “We can always look for improvements and ways to better meet our guests’ needs every day.”
It’s that can-do philosophy that’s earned the 40-something hotelier plaudits from guests and critics alike. Having landed in the hotel industry in his teens via the restaurant industry, Lewis quickly determined hotels would be “fun” places to work. “I originally thought I’d go to business school later and pursue a different field,” but instead, he continued working in hotels, while earning a Bachelor of Commerce undergraduate degree in Entrepreneurship at Victoria’s Royal Roads University. He later returned to school to complete an MBA in Hotel & Restaurant Management at the University of Guelph, where it became clear to him hotels were his passion.
After nine years at the stunning Victoria hotel, situated a stone’s throw from the city’s inner harbour, Lewis still has fun being at the helm of a unique 64-room boutique property featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, bright spacious rooms with natural light and a tranquil spa setting that offers a soothing oasis.
The hotel is “locally owned and the owners are passionately involved. They provide the hotel every resource to ensure we continually pursue our goal — to maintain our place as one of Canada’s finest luxury boutiques.”
In April, the hotel opened a new restaurant called The Courtney Room, which celebrates local products with a classic-French twist. He’s hopeful the dining space will “set new trends in dining in our region.”
Lewis is proud and supportive of his team of 85 associates, who work tirelessly to keep customers happy. Clearly, it’s working: the Magnolia Hotel & Spa has consistently been voted one of the country’s top-five hotels by Conde Nast Traveler. One of Lewis’ biggest challenges is managing opportunities for his staff’s career growth. “I believe in promoting from within and mentoring strong talent but, based on our small size, we don’t have opportunity for advancement for all of our outstanding candidates.”
Delivering exceptional and personalized hospitality to each and every guest in a relaxed style is what drives the father of two. “I strive to create a service environment where guests’ expectations are always exceeded in a way that seems natural, not forced. When we get to know our guests, we can anticipate their every need,” he says. At the end of the day, “the key is to stick to your vision — in good times and bad — and not waver. Guests love consistency, which, in our case, builds loyal business.”