Having a mother who worked in the hotel industry means Ryan Killeen’s been hooked on hospitality since he was 10 years old. “I was intrigued by everything that went on behind the scenes,” says Killeen, who was born in Hong Kong four years before rule in the region was returned to China.

After completing two years in a hospitality program at Vancouver Community College, Killeen landed his first job as a housekeeping attendant at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. And, after working a year in Dubai, he returned to Canada to further hone his skills in a variety of integral roles.
These days, while the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the hospitality industry, Killeen’s role as GM of The Annex in Toronto, a 24-room, micro-boutique hotel outside the city’s downtown core — has taken on new dimensions.

The pandemic may have accelerated many hoteliers’ use of technology, but at The Annex, tech has always been a part of its DNA. “We’ve eliminated task-oriented work via technology. We don’t have a front desk, rather guests complete their check-in process digitally. Upon arrival, they head straight to their room where they enter using a room code provided. iPads loaded with online streaming services replace TVs. Self-serve closets on each floor have eliminated 30-minute waits for extra towels.”

Killeen says “COVID-19 has been the ultimate test of high-tech, low-touch operations. We’ve been able to accommodate our guests and deliver the level of service they’ve become accustomed to from a safe distance. In fact, with the exception of the housekeeping team, the hotel is able to operate remotely and has been doing so since its opening in 2018. Our monitoring systems also play a large role in keeping our building safe and secure. The business has thrived somewhat in this environment.”

From a protocol perspective, the hotel’s reduced team of eight (previously 25) has made safety its top priority.

And, the hotel has been able to re-purpose rooms to serve as offices. While the world continues to battle the pandemic, Killeen says The Annex will continue to “double-down on the use of technology, fine-tune aspects of the guest experience and forge even tighter local relationships and partnerships that will benefit our neighbourhood, as well as provide an ‘authentically local’ experience for guests.”


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