As the GM of the only W branded hotel in Canada, Jean-François Pouliot is in a league of his own. Since landing at the hip 152-room hotel located in Old Montreal five years ago, the native of Chicoutimi, Que. has been leading a team of 120 associates intent on creating a special destination for guests.
But, Pouliot’s foray into the hotel business began quite unexpectedly after heading west one winter to ski in Banff; he fell in love with the Rockies and stayed to enjoy the great wilderness. Eventually, he took a job at the Jasper Park Lodge as a waiter in the main dining room. “I enjoyed meeting people from around the world and became friends with many [visitors] from different parts of Canada, Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand,” he recalls. After various stints at the Sheraton in Toronto and Montreal, Pouliot eventually landed at the country’s only W Hotel in Canada’s French capital.
It’s there that the W finds inspiration from the design, music and fashion of its Old Montreal neighbourhood and attracts a variety of customers. “Our business is mostly transient — both corporate and individual travellers with different trip personas based on the day of the week and time of the year. And, of course, a weekend spent at W Montreal is memorable.”
It’s Pouliot’s job to help make happy memories for his guests, but it can be challenging. “Your job description includes all touchpoints. You need to make sense of the competitive landscape, understand the impact of the new players entering the marketplace, leverage the information available and deliver on the basics while exceeding guests’ expectations.”
The changing world also presents challenges. “New technologies are changing perceptions of our services; there is a lot of background noise, which can be distracting at times; so the question is: how can I help make sense of it all and ensure delivery of the experience in W fashion?” he asks.
And, as the GM continues to handle those conundrums daily, he and his staff take time to give back to the community. “Every year, we hold the W Montreal Beauty Day. Together with local fashion partners we offer professional beauty services to our team and collect donations for La Fondation du Dr. Julien. It’s a great way to energize the team while supporting great work in the community,” he says. The hotel also supports La Tablée des Chefs by donating food surpluses from banquets on a daily basis, and there’s an ongoing commitment to reducing the hotel’s environmental footprint. “We focus on waste minimization, practising environmentally responsible purchasing practices, and, together with our Green Committee, we raise awareness, [encourage] commitment and track our efforts,” he says.
As for the future, Pouliot is looking forward to a 2015 renovation to guestrooms as well as to the meeting space, lobby and F&B operation. It all feeds into the hotelier’s formula for success: “You need to deliver the service basics and orchestrate memorable interactions in a unique and branded environment,” he says. u