Joseph Klein is proof positive the adage “you can’t go home again” has no basis in truth. Klein recently returned to Montreal, his birthplace, to helm the popular Château Champlain Hotel.
Klein’s arrival last summer followed a six-year stint at Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka, Ont, where, among various duties, he orchestrated the G8 summit two years ago. Prior to his tenure at the resort, he spent 16 years with Fairmont Hotels. He’s come full circle, having got his start as a busboy down the road at the Hilton Bonaventure.
After 33 years in the business, the 52-year-old-hotelier is still passionate about hotels. It doesn’t hurt that he’s worked at some of the most storied properties, including Château Lake Louise in Banff, Alta. and the Algonquin Hotel and Resort in New Brunswick. “Each one is unique and distinct and has so much to offer,” boasts Klein. He’s always had a soft spot for his newest home. “It has such an exciting history and is a true stand out in Montreal. Just over 22 years ago, it was where my wife and I spent our wedding night before heading off on our honeymoon.”
Klein jumped at the opportunity to return home to reposition the iconic hotel. “We have a good mix of business travellers, group and leisure guests. Our brand — Marriott — allows for a significant draw from the U.S. with more than 53 per cent of guests in all markets coming from south of the border and the remainder from Canada and Europe,” says Klein.
“This hotel is integral to the Montreal skyline,” says Klein, who hopes the recent renovation of the hotel’s 592 guestrooms “will allow us to maintain and regain some of our market share.”
Already, the affable hotelier is busily planning his next big project — the renovation of the hotel’s 29,000 square feet of meeting space as well as public areas, lobby, restaurant and lounge. “These are significant undertakings for the hotel and will keep us busy over the next two years.” He also has a new director of F&B and a new executive chef, and together they’ll refresh the hotel’s menu and dining options.
Leading a team of 350 employees also keeps him focused; but he’s up to the challenge. “I need to hear and feel what the associates and guests feel. I listen to anyone who has something to say, especially our staff. They live it, they feel it,” Klein declares. He says the common thread in each work-week is “ensuring the decisions made today will meet the needs of our customers and stakeholders tomorrow.”
Klein says the secrets to his success aren’t really secrets at all. He knows what will make his hotel flourish and his passion for the business is contagious: “making sure what we do, what we sell and what we offer is simple, seamless and consistent. Listen to the customer from the start and adapt to their needs, not our structures,” he says. While rules and parameters are needed they can occasionally be restrictive on guests and staff. “Not everything is black and white and we need to be flexible — especially today. Guests plan last minute and change is constant, so we need to be as adaptable as possible internally to be successful externally.”