Learning has always figured prominently in Laurie Barkman’s life. But that’s not surprising given she was raised in family of teachers. Like many others before her, she entered the restaurant industry in a bid to finance her own education, but immediately fell in love with the notion of providing customer service. She soon enrolled in the hotel- and restaurant-management program at Winnipeg’s Red River College, hoping to build a career in the restaurant business. Little did she know she’d end up in the hotel business instead. “My first work placement was at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza and, with that introduction to the hotel business, my career changed direction and I haven’t looked back since.”
Today, as GM of the 160-room Alt Hotel Winnipeg, the Manitoba native and mother of two oversees a team of 40. “We offer a beautiful product with unique features, but what really stands out is the level of job satisfaction and team camaraderie, both at the local and corporate level. We’re committed to hiring people who are authentic, love being a part of a team and genuinely care about a guest’s well-being.” It’s a philosophy the hotel’s parent company, Group Germain Hotels, believes is more important than work experience. With innovation fuelling the company, Barkman’s goal is to “stay on top of changing, increasing and varied guest expectations. Continuing to challenge the status quo and to look at our business from our guests’ perspective is important to ensure we identify and introduce innovative service offerings.”
As a relatively new hotel in the Winnipeg market, Barkman works to build recognition and grow business. “The Alt brand was new to Winnipeg, which generated a lot of curiosity and it’s our job to ensure the buzz and curiosity turns into business.” Barkman believes the hotel has an excellent opportunity to be part of the continued growth and revitalization of downtown Winnipeg. “Our location directly across from the Bell MTS Centre and within walking distance of theatre and other entertainment venues makes us attractive and convenient for people coming to Winnipeg for sports, concerts or other entertainment options.”
One of the hotel’s greatest differentiators is its rates. “We’ve taken away the confusion and frustration some people feel when their rate fluctuates from day to day or week to week. Our flat-rate policy means the rate a guest pays won’t go up during periods of high occupancy. We’re pleased to offer no check-out time to individual travellers who book directly with us. So, if a meeting runs late, there’s no worry about where to store luggage or where to freshen up before heading to the airport to get back home.” And while most companies talk about customer service, the hotel staff walks the talk. “We embody that commitment at Alt Hotel Winnipeg like no other hotel I’ve worked at,” she boasts.