Acclaim Hotel Calgary Airport
The majesty of the Rocky Mountains has captivated many a heart, but for Stewart Winterburn, partner/GM of the newly minted Acclaim Hotel Calgary Airport, the Rockies also propelled him to decide on an entirely different career path. “My original plan was to be a software programmer. As a teenager I had written several applications for fun.” But after getting a taste for hotels while working as a waiter in Banff, and then meeting the girl of his dreams, the monotony of writing computer code soon lost its lustre.
“The best part about that experience was meeting so many interesting people from all over the world,” says the 37-year-old B.C. native. “After closing the dining room we’d hike up Tunnel Mountain to gaze at the stars, mountains and river while drinking wine, talking and laughing into the wee hours. Life couldn’t have been any better.” When the time came to return home to attend college, Winterburn knew his career path had changed. “I decided that wasn’t my life anymore; it was in the mountains with my future wife.”
The father of two has never looked back. He’s currently embracing the challenge of establishing a new hotel brand in a tough, competitive market and watching it develop its own niche. “I’ve been working on the project for four years — conceptualizing, planning and designing for the first three. My partner Jim Muir and I developed the Acclaim brand from scratch. We started with a clean slate and the goal of being on the leading edge of guest room experiences. We believe we’ve hit the nail on the head. The feedback has been exceptional.”
With 123 guest rooms and studio suites as well as 3,000 square feet of meeting space, Winterburn is committed to delivering a high-tech and green environment to travellers. “We have sensors and access points everywhere. If spaces aren’t in use, our systems take control and change heating/cooling levels, and turn lights on and off. We want to have as small a carbon footprint as possible.”
Having opened five independent hotels in the past 12 years, Winterburn admits he’s a roll-up-your-sleeves and get-the-job-done kind of guy. “You’ve got to get in there and make it happen. I focus on providing the best service and product, but I’m always finding ways to improve that product and keep the experience fresh. When you make guests happy the rest falls in line.”
These days Winterburn is focused on opening the hotel’s new 6,000-square-foot Pacini restaurant. With so much on the go, it would be safe to assume the pressure weighs on him heavily, but he just rolls with the punches. “I don’t think a stressed-out GM is good for guests or staff.”
In fact, as an avid hobbyist and thrill-seeker, he purges that stress by building things out of wood, turning bowls on a lathe and jumping out of airplanes. “I’ve had some great adventures mountain biking, skiing, canoeing down rivers and skydiving,” he says. “I’ve taken off in a plane 230 more times than I’ve landed in one.”