Geoff Allan is no stranger to complex real estate projects. Throughout his career, the peripatetic entrepreneur has always welcomed risk — it gets his adrenalin pumping. As a hotel development specialist, Allan broke into the industry during a 16-year tenure at Fairmont Hotels, where he directed some of Canada’s most majestic resorts, including Chateau Lake Louise, Jasper Park Lodge and the Chateau Whistler.
“When I was with Fairmont,” recalls Allan, “I was identified as someone who could walk into a property in a period of significant change, evolution or expansion, manage that change and still fulfill an excellent guest experience. When you’re in that position you have to think like an entrepreneur.”
It was Allan’s entrepreneurial zeal that prompted Fairmont to call on him in 2001 to run its new property in Dubai, even though he had previously left the company. The dynamic complex was home to 200 residential units, 400 hotel rooms, 12 restaurants and a 45,000-square-foot spa. “Immediately, it created an interesting business model to carry forward,” says Allan. “It helped private developers deliver complex real estate projects with an expertise in hotels and residences.”
After spending two years in the desert playground for the rich and famous, Allan returned to Montreal, married his Montreal-born wife (whom he met on a desert safari in Dubai) and began raising a family. He soon became involved with large private developments such as the Hotel Quintessence and Château Beauvallon before joining Hôtel Le Crystal de la Montagne, the newest architectural jewel in downtown Montreal.
The 26-storey condo hotel opened last month after much fanfare. With Allan at the helm, owners Pierre Parent, president of Resort One and Le Saint Sulpice (Montreal’s only other condo hotel) and James Essaris, a financier, are confident the property will be among the most sought after places to stay in the city. Allan defines the shimmering complex as a hybrid hotel, blending 131 condo hotel suites (situated on floors four to 11) with privately owned residences. The hotel units are individually titled and owners can use them for 36 days a year, with revenues collected in a rental pool.
Capped by a silvery metallic dome pointing skyward, the hotel is split in two by the 10,000-square-foot Izba spa. “The hotel’s feel is modern and avant garde,” says Allan, pointing to the luxurious surfaces featured throughout the property, including marble floors, crystal chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows.
The hotel’s core customers currently come from Ontario (50 per cent), Quebec (30 per cent) and the U.S. (10 per cent), with the balance from Europe. As the newest hotel to open in Montreal, Allan says the biggest challenge over the next year “is getting known and achieving market penetration without discounting the value of the rooms.” One niche market he’s targeting is the female traveller, “a potentially huge market.”
But as any astute hotelier knows, all the luxurious items in the world won’t make a hotel successful if it can’t deliver great customer service. Allan has assembled a strong team and empowers it to excel. “When you’re climbing a mountain, the expedition leader rarely gets to the summit,” he says. “A good leader knows when to stop at base camp, providing the resources, direction and coaching to lead the team to the summit.”