Homewood suites by Hilton Oakville, Ont.

Alexandru Matei firmly believes that success breeds success. Since landing at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Oakville, Ont., two years ago, his team has won a slew of awards, and he’s earned GM of the Year honours twice.

The 36-year-old hotelier is quick to credit his team of 35 employees as the reason for the property’s success. “We’ve won every award since opening because of our great staff and ownership. We’re not only maintaining growth, we’re exceeding it,” says Matei proudly.

Even as a youngster, Matei had an affinity for the hotel business. In fact, “it was love at first sight” that made him decide to become a hotelier. “I love working with and meeting people,” says the charmer, who directs the 108-room all-suite property. Given his father was a hotelier, there was almost no escaping his fate. “I was inspired by my father,” says Matei, recalling how he began his hotel career in the same mountain resort in Romania where his dad was GM, before stints in Bucharest, Portsmouth, England and, finally, Canada. 

The lifelong student chose to study Tourism and Hotel Management at the university in his native Romania, receiving two scholarships — one at the James Madison University in Virginia in 1996 and the second at the Leonard da Vinci Program in England in 2002. “Both were great experiences.” He loved learning so much he eventually earned his PhD in Tourism Economics in Romania, where he authored a book in collaboration with one of his colleague’s professors and also taught at the Romanian American University. 

Like most hoteliers, his biggest challenge is “finding the right people, training them and keeping them motivated. We look for people interested in what they do, and who manage to go above and beyond our expectations.” He’s committed to nurturing a family atmosphere. “My parents have been together for more than 40 years and are happier than ever, so I believe in this form of success. To have exceptional service you have to make sure the people you work with are happy. When actions and thoughts are sincere and heartfelt, it results in success.”

Obsessive about service, Matei’s goal is to increase the hotel’s string of outstanding quality-assurance inspections to 12 in 2012. “We just received the 10th consecutive Quality Assurance from Hilton for our last inspection, earning a rating of 98.8 per cent.”

Though the 24-7 nature of the business can be stress-inducing, Matei gets re-energized by spending time with his wife and 17-month son. He’d like to one day own his own hotel or perhaps even a chain.  But, when asked about the future, he recalls the past. “It reminds me of a time when I was in high school and asked by a reporter from a local newspaper a similar question. I told him I saw myself earning a university scholarship in the U.S. Everyone laughed when they read the story because under communist rule students could not go outside the country to study,” he recalls. “To all the students it seemed like a joke. But I believed in myself and earned two scholarships during my time at university and one of them was in the U.S.,” he says proudly, underlining the importance of dreaming big. 

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