Dylan Clarke’s Comfort Inn & Suites Virden hotel has just become a three-time Gold Award winner for Guest Satisfaction. The award puts them within the top 10 per cent in the country, out of about 325 Canadian properties in the Choice Hotels system.
Dylan Clarke’s story was also featured in a beautiful hardcover book that was published last fall, “Strength Through Diversity”.
Starting on page 41, the Virden hotel keepers story begins - one of 30 chapters in the chronicle of the growing franchise, celebrating Choice Hotels’ 25th Anniversary.
Years ago, Dylan and his father Robert Clarke had a vision to build a hotel on their property along Virden’s TransCanada.
Clarke says, “With a lot of hard work and due diligence, along with three great partners, that vision became a reality and Choice Hotels became the vehicle to make that dream become a reality.”
With family and staff photos, five pages of the book track Clarke’s evolution from high school graduate to businessman.
Childhood friends, interesting partnerships, NHL hockey, as well as perfect timing are at the heart of this account.
When Clarke relates the birth pangs of racing to grand opening day, and not knowing if the operating license would arrive on time, it was right down to the day. But it all came together and Comfort Inn & Suites opened just in time to accommodate Tundra Oil & Gas executives and employees from Calgary and Winnipeg, coming for a meeting in Virden.
The hotel was full the first night it opened in October 2011, and continued to be 98 per cent booked in their first month, November 2011. Clarke’s business was the first Choice Hotel to be located in a market of this size in Western Canada. The hotel has been a winner from the start, named Choice Hotels’ “Best New Hotel” in 2012.
“I don’t think the people of Virden realize what an advantage it is for our town to be locatedon Highway One,” says Clarke, explaining that highway traffic is key to the business community’s ability to grow.
Recognizing that potential Clarke also purchased the Jays Inn & Suites, just a stone’s throw down Virden’s frontage road.
Even in 2015, when the oil industry dropped off, Clarke’s hotels were still busy, partly because of Tundra’s (Oil & Gas) office in Virden as well as pipeline development, but also because of regular summer traffic on the TransCanada.
He points to the complimentary nature of the hospitality business, providing accommodation for big sporting events, rodeo and other events. “Now, there’s even more activity in TOGP, with larger events,” says Clarke.
Recently Clarke has expanded to become a partner in other hotel businesses with a recent purchase into the Brandon market which includes the Days Inn & Suites and Motel 6.
Dylan Clarke enjoys providing hospitality to guests. The clean, spacious foyer, with comfy couches, nearby newspapers to read and coffee/tea service is inviting, as is the fact that the hotel has a pool.
“Much of our success is owed to the staff,” he says. “They are truly the ones that make our hotel the success that it is!”
In fact, Clarke has many of the same staff as he did on opening day.
“I don’t ask anyone to do a job I wouldn’t do,” he says. With a passion to see the hotel succeed, for the first few years he spent long days there. And, he continues to roll up his sleeves as needed, often taking night shifts at the front desk.
In Virden, Clarke currently employs a staff of about 45.
With his wife Adele Clarke doing the books, this family business brought the couple and their children Zayda and Zander from Saskatchewan to become Virden residents. “We could not be happier to be back in our home town and raising our family in Virden surrounded by family and friends!”
The story of the hotel business, “Strength Through Diversity”, can be found at Border Regional Library in Virden, and at the Comfort Inn.
Along with the Clarke’s chapter, the book provides a glimpse into the many personalities of one of Canada’s hotel businesses.