Ever since he was a young child growing up in India, the hotel industry has fascinated Hiren Prabhakar. The love affair was fuelled by his parents who exposed him to travel from a young age. By the time he had to decide which career path to follow, the native of Mumbai, decided hospitality was his calling. “The Oberoi School of Hotel Management, now called Oberoi Centre for Learning & Development campus, recruited me from university,” explains the GM of Toronto’s St Regis, adding he “did a two-year full-time post-graduate program in hotel management.”
The hotelier left India to work in Dubai on the pre-opening team at the iconic Burj Al Arab and started out as a Management Trainee at the Oberoi New Delhi. “This was where I learned the foundational aspects of hospitality. I enjoyed creating the entire luxury guest experience.”
Prabhakar joined the elegant St. Regis Toronto in July 2022. “The property is unique for many reasons. We have an incredible opportunity as the first St Regis in Canada. Its legacy, history and rituals (butler service, champagne sabering, signature cocktails, afternoon tea and midnight suppers) are legendary but new to Canada, so it’s exciting to be a part of the team to bring it to life here in Toronto.”
Along with his team of 335 associates, the collective mission of the hotel is “to make the everyday exquisite for our guests by empowering our hosts to make the ordinary extraordinary.
While there was no roadmap to deal with the pandemic, the father of one son says his biggest learning was to stay positive and have faith in the future, and to take care of teach other during difficult times. “I learned to appreciate what we have and enjoy the freedom of travel and to connect with people without restrictions.” He’s happy that recovery has been quicker than expected. “In 2022, we exceeded 2019 average room rate by more than 30 per cent. Credit goes to InnVest Hotels for fully renovating our hotel, and the power of our brand.
As the pandemic now fades into the rear-view mirror, Prabhakar is focused on being the “Number-1 luxury hotel in Canada by continuing to elevate our service and experience.” Earlier this year, the hotel was named as a Double Five-Star Hotel & Spa by Forbes Travel Guide. The hotel is one of two in Toronto and one of four in all of Canada to receive this prestigious honour. “Our goal is to maintain our Double Forbes Five-Star status and continue to set the luxury benchmark in Canada.”
To this end, Prabhakar believes it’s the associates that “will always set us apart with the passion, energy and magic they bring to their work. We need to be intuitive and a step ahead of guests needs to be considered luxury — we need to wow a guest; this isn’t easy, but it’s what St. Regis Hosts do best”
BY ROSANNA CAIRA