When the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) announced the appointment of Robert Mercure to the CTC Board of Directors earlier this spring, it affirmed what many already knew: Mercure has a vast knowledge of the hotel industry.
As a fourth-generation hotelier, the GM of the fabled Fairmont Le Château Frontenac has often been described as “a man with hotels in his blood.” Born in the Eastern Townships of Granby, Que., Mercure opted for a university education, majoring in economics, before starting his formal career with ITT Sheraton Corp. in Boston. Along the way, he took a detour, landing in the foodservice industry, where he ran his own restaurant in New Hampshire for a decade before returning to his first love.
For the past five years, the savvy hotelier has been leading the team at the Château Frontenac. “The historical iconic status of the Château is very special. Being a Quebecer who has worked in numerous locations in North America and Europe, it’s a dream come true to come back to the region and manage such a well-known and unique property.”
These days, with hotels experiencing a significant drop in U.S. business, Mercure’s biggest challenge is “growing operational profit and asset value in a market of rising costs.” But he and his team of 600 are up to the challenge, offering impeccable and well-executed service in a relaxed and personable manner. “It needs to connect strongly with the client as an individual,” stresses Mercure.
The hotelier has many people he considers on a daily basis. “[I maintain] a results-oriented focus for all major stakeholders — equally between the client, the staff, ownership and the brand. You have to constantly re-evaluate and re-invent in a rapidly changing and competitive environment where evolution and adaptation are keys to long-term success,” says Mercure.
That means the hotel needs to constantly evolve, so the 618-room property is undergoing significant renovations. “It’s a comprehensive rooms renovation program — a doubling of the banquet space,” explains the hotelier. The refresh includes a complete makeover of the meeting space, new restaurant concepts, a lobby redo, the addition of a large new spa and health fitness area, an expanded Fairmont Gold offering and new outdoor lighting.
Interestingly, during the hotel’s recent copper-roof renovations, the hotelier gave back to the community. “We donated a significant part of the 100-year-old green roof copper to a group of Quebec artists,” explains Mercure. “The artwork created from the copper as well as the exposition was a major hit, generating amazing local and international media attention. People were very intrigued by the creativity, combined with the unique history of this copper.”
And, at the heart of that community is the guest with whom Mercure aims to connect. “It’s crucial to connect emotionally and create lasting memories. Hotels have to create an experience that not only exceeds expectations but one that will have customers talking from the heart. It creates an amazing word-of-mouth momentum, building customer loyalty to return to the hotel and to the brand.”