Philip Meyer has fond recollections of his first job as a waiter at the Mermaid Hotel in Sussex, England. At the age of 17, the young Kent native showed up for his first day only minutes after passing his driver’s test, and just in time to serve lunch to the Queen Mother. “I had to pass [the test] so I wouldn’t be late for Her Majesty’s lunch,” he quips. It was a memorable beginning to what would become an illustrious hotel career spanning more than 20 years and two continents, including a stint cruising the world on the Queen Elizabeth II luxury liner.
These days the 43-year-old successfully manages the 83-room Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver, where he’s presided for the past decade. Married and with three young children, Meyer spends his days ensuring the Wedgewood’s 140 employees take ultimate care of its guests. “I couldn’t work at a hotel that says it’s (a fine property) but can’t deliver. We have great rooms and great food. Having staff committed to going the extra mile is very rewarding.”
Being in the thick of activity keeps Meyer passionate and focused, but growing the hotel’s occupancy rate and keeping customers coming back is what fuels his energy. “Maintaining a strong room rate throughout the city at this end of the market and selling what you believe you are worth is a big challenge,” he says. “In other major markets like New York, London and Paris, you would pay double what you pay for a room in Vancouver.”
As one of the city’s finest boutique hotels, the Wedgewood’s core business is a healthy mix of leisure and corporate travellers, arriving from Europe and across North America. “We’re in the heart of downtown featuring a great bar and restaurant, so on those cold rainy November nights you’ll see business deals being done inside Bacchus, without guests having to step outside. We’re able to combine that Old World style with the requirements of modern-day business travellers.”
To ensure the hotel runs efficiently, Meyer is on the floor as much as possible. “Consistency is key and ultimately, it wins the day,” he says. The hotel recently completed a multi-million-dollar renovation, installing flat-panel LCD TVs in every room, wireless Internet throughout, a new walk-in fridge for the kitchen and marble bathrooms with walk-in showers. Early next year, it will also become a member of the Relais et Château group.
Though working in a 24/7 hotel environment is stressful, Meyer stays balanced. “Cycling is my big passion,” he admits. His interest has led to the creation of the Wedgewood Cycling Team, which raises awareness and funds for the B.C. Cancer Foundation. “I ride with the team almost every weekend and race in the summer,” he says proudly.
But no matter how busy, Meyer always finds time for his wife and kids. “Seeing our children grow up is life’s greatest pleasure,” he says. He’s quick to add that once his days as a hotelier are over, he’d love to win the Tour de France, but for now, he’s focused on building the hotel’s business leading up to the Winter Olympics. “The city is booming, so these are important years.”