West coast GM knows running a hotel is more work than play

As a 16-year-old student in New Delhi, Peter Parmar took an interest in the world of hotels. In fact, he spent hours rehearsing how a hotelier might act, so when it was his chance to hit the big stage, he wouldn’t blow it.

“I participated in a play,” explains Parmar, “and they needed someone for the role of hotel manager.” In an odd twist of fate, when the play finally debuted, the vice-president of Recruitment for InterContinental Hotels was in attendance. “He asked me if I had thought about a career in hospitality. That’s how it all began.”

After applying to some 200 schools, Parmar was accepted to a college in Portsmouth, England for hotel management. Upon graduating, he came to Toronto in 1976, and was hired at the Cara Inn, working his way across the country in various roles.

Thankfully, none of them resembled the role of Basil Fawlty, the angry innkeeper John Cleese made famous on the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers. As general manager of Poet’s Cove Resort and Spa on Pender Island, B.C., the only thing Parmar has in common with Fawlty is that they both head up seaside hotels. Fawlty loathed his guests and his hotel perpetually teetered on the cusp of disaster, the exact opposite of what Parmar has accomplished in the 16 months since he arrived at the luxurious island destination.

Located about a 30-minute boat ride from Victoria in the Southern Gulf Islands, Poet’s Cove houses 22 large hotel rooms in a main lodge, and another nine villas and 15 cottages scattered around the beautiful beachfront property. It also boasts an expansive marina, two pools, restaurants and a fitness centre. With five-star appointed rooms, it offers sophisticated elegance against the backdrop of rugged natural beauty.

As a fractional ownership property, the 50-year-old Parmar has more to worry about than traditional hotel GMs. He reports to a board of directors, a strata corporation and an owners’ association, in addition to managing staff and meeting the diverse needs of guests. But Parmar worked diligently to appease the demanding owners, even introducing seamless transportation via water taxi from Sidney, just north of Victoria, to pick up patrons. He also re-launched the spa and added a variety of eco-tourism activities for guests like whale watching.

“When I arrived, I wanted to change the culture of the company, and make it more service oriented,” he says. That meant getting staff on board with his personal management style, which he refers to as “no fear management.” Employees shouldn’t be looking over their shoulders, and are encouraged to speak their minds. “My door is open, no matter where you are on the organizational chart.”

Parmar prefers mentoring staff, something employees at Poet’s Cove have responded to. He believes it’s the foundation of any successful hotel. “If you look after your associates, your associates will look after your guests, and your guests will look after the shareholders. That’s the way I’ve always managed my properties.”                       


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