General manager, Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagrara-on-the-Lake,Ont.
After rising through the ranks of the hotel world, Michelle Miller considers herself a hands-on hotelier. That’s why she believes “It’s important to know the role of each team member to understand how each activity can positively impact guests.”
The Niagara native always knew she wanted to work in the hotel profession, and her introduction came at 15 in the kitchen of the Niagara Falls Motel & Restaurant. “I was really shy and the environment helped my social development and confidence,” she says.
Today Miller is GM of the stately 110-room Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake — a favourite of both leisure and business customers thanks to its history and Victorian decor. It appeals “to a more mature, well-travelled, discerning clientele that enjoys opulence and tradition,” she says. But the property’s location on the bustling village’s main street “also adds to the interesting mix of customers, who come to us from all over the world.”
It’s been a busy year for Miller. Since assuming the managerial role a year ago, the company that owns the Prince of Wales started placing more emphasis on the umbrella brand — Vintage Hotels — rather than the individual properties (the other two are Queen’s Landing and Pillar and Post). “We offer the same standards of quality and service across our portfolio, while maintaining the unique character of each hotel. We also clearly associate ourselves with the Niagara-on-the-Lake destination.”
Miller, a graduate of Niagara College’s hospitality program, says the new brand concept mixes the contemporary with tradition and elegance. “It’s in line with today’s customers who are looking for modern luxury — not just red velvet and fine linens, but a full, top-notch experience.” Vintage Hotels has also invested in training to ensure the hotels become the “gold standard” for modern luxury. “I place equal value on our guests and our team,” she says. “Taking pride in attention to detail distinguishes us between delivering a good experience and a great experience.”
The hotel also plans to add a new conference centre in 2009 featuring more than 16,000 sq. ft. of conference space, including a 9,000 sq. ft. ballroom and 50 to 100 additional guest rooms. It will be located across from the Pillar and Post and accessible to the hotel via an above-ground walkway.
In addition to running the popular hotel and overseeing a staff ranging between 120 and 175 team members (depending on season), Miller’s two young boys, aged 8 and 11, keep her hopping with their involvement in competitive sports.
Having worked in various roles at the same hotel for 17 years, Miller now enjoys honing her managerial skills. “I love my job, the company and the region,” she says. “Many properties offer the same types of products and services, but these days it’s vital to sell the emotion. I want our guests to remember how they were made to feel by our team and by the personalized service they received. This is something genuine that’s not easily matched.”