Photo of Hotelier Jennifer Worden and GM, Toronto Marriott Markham

By Rosanna Caira

Jennifer Worden found her happy place in the hotel industry. The GM of the Toronto Marriott Markham never imagined she’d be a hotelier, but when she landed as a Guest Service Agent at the Toronto Marriott Eaton Centre back in 1996, she not only learned a great deal about all aspects of front-desk operation, but she also realized she enjoyed making guests happy. 

“I’m a people pleaser at heart, so providing excellent experiences and making a guest so happy they would want to come back was the best feeling in the world. Any comment card that had my name on it drove me to want to do more.”

Since 2022, the Halifax native and graduate of Queen’s University has been making her mark as a GM, after years of being in sales. She learned a great deal and espouses the principles of Marriott hospitality. “I take care of my people and ensure an inclusive and welcoming environment, conducive to learning and making mistakes so we can get better at what we do. None of us should want to be perfect but we should want to do better next time — and have fun doing it.”

Worden says the 209-room hotel is a “boutique hotel at heart, with a track record of excellence that comes from the affiliation of a brand like Marriott.” 

The affable hotelier oversees a team of 110 people whose mission it is “to provide the most elevated service and product outside of downtown Toronto.” She admits finding the right associates is challenging. “On paper people look great, but drilling down to learn about who they are and why they want to do the role can be tricky. That’s why I appreciate our interview process
at Marriott. It’s different than other places and helps understand situational behaviours beyond
a resumé.”

Post-pandemic, Worden stresses the importance of kindness in dealing with guests and associates. “If we all approach stressful situations with a little kindness and compassion for the other person’s experience, it makes a difference.”

As for what hotels need to do to be competitive, Worden says it hasn’t changed much since she landed in the industry. “People just want to feel like they matter, are seen and that someone genuinely cares about their experience. That holds true today — both with our people and guests. The hotel is the shell, the people who work there are the soul. You can have a pretty shell but with no soul, people won’t return.” 


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