The Gak Eco Resort at Treasure Mountain
No one could mistake Scott Dunlop for being a typical hotelier. The native of London, Ont., didn’t attend hotel school and he’s never even held a hotel job. “My background is in education, with a healthy dose of entrepreneurship,” says the 39-year-old father of two. A few years ago, Dunlop bought a tract of land two-and-half-hours east of Vancouver with the intent to build an outdoor school for kids. But somewhere along the way he decided to create an eco-resort getaway instead.
Dunlop spent the past three years developing his rustic property, and just last month he opened the “doors” to the Gak Eco Resort at Treasure Mountain, a natural sanctuary featuring 15 yurts (nomadic tents that accommodate up to five people each) located on 180 acres of rugged land, 40 kilometres in the backcountry. The facility is off the grid but it features many of the creature comforts guests would expect from a resort, in addition to offering “serenity, solitude and peace of mind.”
“Our initiatives are related to achieving a zero-footprint on the environment while providing the comforts of a traditional hotel,” says Dunlop. Guests are free to custom design their own adventure packages, including alpine hiking, yoga or flyfishing. The hotel’s core demographic is wide-ranging, between 25 and 60 years old. “Most of our clientele are from B.C., and they visit for leisure or for one of our programs.”
Everything about the resort is unconventional. “I don’t oversee any staff, although our team consists of five people — each with a role and skill-set to complement and contribute to our company direction and goals,” says Dunlop.
With sustainability top of mind, each of the yurts generates all its electricity via solar power and individual generators. They also utilize composting toilets and collect rainwater for their showers. Dunlop says his biggest challenge is to grow the business as much as it allows. “It’s fairly easy to borrow money, even in tough times. It’s more difficult to pay it back.”
Focusing on a simple service philosophy, Dunlop “strives to make every experience with our guests and suppliers as productive, genuine and enjoyable as possible.” But the fledgling hotelier is still keen to discover the tenets of being a successful operator. “We’re putting our best foot forward on a daily basis, making every effort to provide a first-class experience,” he says. As in any business, it’s about “providing amazing service in a relaxed atmosphere, offering a quality product and a qualified staff that’s proactively attentive to the needs of our guests.”
Through years of entrepreneurial experience, he’s learned to rail against complacency. “I’d like to continue to grow this business and see how it develops. Certainly, we have goals, which change from time to time, but if we work hard and build solid relationships, everything else should take care of itself.”