Jacques Baheux’s wanderlust has always been the driving force in his life, and he came by it naturally. The GM of the newly minted Westin Montreal was born in France, raised in Africa until he was seven and moved to Spain before eventually arriving in Canada where he spent his formative years in Toronto and Montreal. While most teenagers were deciding what university to attend, Baheux was working hard at various jobs in hospitality to bolster his bankroll and backpack around the world for months at a time.
By 24, he had already travelled through most of the U.S., Central America and Europe, and prodded by his mother, a professor at the University of Houston, Baheux decided to enroll in the school’s Hotel & Restaurant Management program. He hasn’t looked back since. With a slew of industry awards to his name, he’s become known as a troubleshooter with an eye for detail, holding down a series of managerial positions in the U.S., Europe and the Caribbean, before returning to Montreal to helm the spanking new 454-room Westin, an Atlific Hotels-managed property that opened in May.
Part of the hotel is located in the building that once housed the legendary Montreal Gazette newspaper. “The hotel is unique due to its complexity, with 65 floors in four different buildings,” says Baheux, adding that though the sprawling complex can be challenging to operate, there are benefits. For example, “During slower times we can close certain towers if need be.” Additionally, the two towers on Saint Jacques St. can be marketed as a boutique property, allowing it to compete with the myriad boutique hotels in the cosmopolitan city. “[Our] advantage is that we offer a guest rewards program, so we give guests a double whammy,” says the 50-year-old father of four.
Providing a wide range of amenities doesn’t hurt, either. The uniquely designed glass-bottom pool that greets guests as they drive up is already creating buzz, and those looking to indulge in epicurean, Quebec-inspired cuisine can dine at the 143-seat Gazette or share tapas at Reporter, which is located on the mezzanine floor. Later this year, guests will also be able to unwind in a luxurious 5,000-square-foot spa that will set the property apart from its competition in the area.
As the city’s newest hotel — and one of its biggest developments in quite some time — Baheux has been busy marketing the property for months. The hotel’s Old Montreal location across from the Palais des Congrès, and its 40,000 square feet of meeting space, make it ideal for convention goers, and despite the turbulent economy, occupancy has been running in the high-90s most summer weekends. “There are still people interested in booking groups and willing to spend money on weddings,” says Baheux, adding that three couples have already booked their nuptials at the hotel next year. “We have a quality of product and energy,” says the affable Baheux. “People still want to be pampered.”