Virden property receives 2015 Gold Award

A Virden hotel has lived up to its name, making guests comfortable.

The Comfort Inn & Suites has been honoured for its commitment to service excellence as a recipient of a 2015 Gold Hospitality Award. The award is from Choice Hotels Canada, the country’s largest hotel franchisor.

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“Providing a first-rate guest experience is clearly the top priority for the entire team at the Comfort Inn & Suites says Tim Oldfield, managing director, Choice Hotels Canada. “This well deserved award speaks volumes about the hotel’s leadership and commitment.”

“Our goal is to ensure every guest that comes through our doors feels at home with us,” says hotel general manager Dylan Clarke. “It is a fantastic honour to be recognized for living up to this.”

Green start

Built in 2011, the Virden Comfort Inn opened for business on October 19. Clarke was involved from day one of the hotel’s start up. “I was involved right through the construction and design phase, with one of our partners doing the build.

From the time we started breaking ground until the time it was opened, I looked after everything with the understanding that I was going to be managing.”

This hotel employs 26 staff. Clark is also the managing partner of the business, which includes the Jays Inn & Suites, employing 16 people.

“Melissa Stewart is the hotel manager at Jays Inn. She looks after the day-to-day,” says Clarke.

Hotel management is a brand new endeavor for him.

“I had no hotel experience whatsoever. I was completely green,” he admits.

Many of the staff, with the exception of a couple of people, were also new to the hotel industry. Apparently, the Virden market was waiting for this accommodation.

“The first night we were open, we were 100 percent full. I think that’s probably a record of some sort in the hotel industry,” says the hotelkeeper, smiling broadly.

It just so happened that the first day the hotel opened was also the beginning of a set of business meetings for Tundra Oil & Gas Partnerships.

Two bus coaches pulled in, and guests filled the hotel lobby.

Nerve wracking on a first day perhaps, but all went well. “They knew we were a new hotel,”says Clarke, adding, “We still had a trainer here for Choice Hotels, to help us through that process. Andit’s just been a whirlwind ever since.”

To qualify for a Gold Award, a property must be among the top 10 per cent of Choice Hotels Canada’s more than 300 hotels. Hotels are ranked based on a variety of criteria, including guest surveys and third party reviews that look at the condition of guestrooms and the property. This ongoing rating system is valuable to the hotel manager.

From the welcome at the front desk to a guest’s checkout time, the manager credits the staff for the hotel’s good reputation.

“It goes directly back to our staff. That’s the secret. Your staff has to be hard working and they have to be friendly, outgoing, and we’ve got that, right from housekeeping to the breakfast people...”

Team spirit makes the difference says Clarke. “It’s just a team effort. We try to keep it a fun place to work. We encourage [staff] to participate and be active.The friendlier and more outgoing they are, there are chances for rewards, and I think they like it.”

Clarke is, himself enjoying the hospitality industry. He says, “You meet so many people - that’s the fun part. You’ll meet people from all over, and you’ll think, ‘what are you doing in Virden?’”

Big events come to town, such as the Scott Tournament of Hearts, which filled the hotel last year.

Industry in the area, largely based on oil production, continues to bring in the bulk of hotel clientele.

The hotel is home to work crews. That has not stopped in Virden. Clarke says, “Our staff has made it so easy for them to be here, they don’t have to worry about the details, we’ve really focused on looking after them...”

Highway traffic keeps the hotel busy in the summer. “There’s more than I thought we’d ever get... just stopping by from the highway travel,” says Clarke.
The Comfort Inn & Suites is one of 20 hotels to receive this honour in 2015. This is the first Gold Award for the Comfort Inn & Suites.

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