Sean O’Donnell and Stephen Courey, the owners of Mont-Tremblant’s only five-star hotel, say being independent has its advantages. They say it’s a star above the rest because they’ve had the freedom to design an environment that reflects their own wishes and values.
While Hôtel Quintessence could have affiliated with a large hotel chain, they say that would limit their ability to offer the type of personalized experience they want to offer.
“With a corporate brand, you have to follow their standards and sometimes they’re cookie cutter protocols that are put in place that don’t necessarily always meet with the demands or the needs for more specific, localized requirements,” O’Donnell said.
It’s an approach that goes back to when the business parters built the 30-room hotel 15 years ago.
When designing a chain hotel “you have to follow the directives of the corporate brand, whereas us, we were able to design it to our wishes and to our likes that we knew that our specific target clientele would appreciate,” O’Donnell said.
Among the things they knew their clients would appreciate — having every room at the lakefront hotel face the water.
“Think of the hotels you visit, the corridor’s in the centre and the rooms are on both sides, in the Q, the corridor has light streaming in from the mountain side and all the rooms look out onto the lake,” Courey said.
Starting out as an independent hotel “was probably more challenging, because we didn’t have the channels, the networks of connectivity that the larger chains did,” O’Donnell said, but the rise of social media, online travel agencies and websites like TripAdvisor has made it easier for a small hotel to build a reputation.
“Basically, our best ambassadors are our guests. We have a terrific record of repeat guests,” O’Donnell said.
The fact that travellers are increasingly looking for unique, local experiences has also helped.
“That’s precisely our advantage,” Courey said.
But social media has also increased the pressure.
“You can’t afford to let anybody down because the power of social media today is so strong,” O’Donnell said.
So what sets a five-star hotel apart from a four-star hotel?
“It all has to do with the attention to detail,” O’Donnell said.
Personalized service and things like 24-hour room service are part of the equation.
If a customer phones “at two o’clock in the morning and they want an omelette, we’ll have somebody make them an omelette,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a lot more labour intensive. We have a staff of 75 people, year-round full-time staff, and then there’s also some part-time staff on when it gets busier.”
That’s more than two employees for every room. This, too, is one of the advantages of independence, O’Donnell said.
“The fact that we’re not part of a large chain where you have to contribute marketing dollars and management fees, the royalties that they take off the top, we’re able to put that money into the service and also the pricing, so we’re able to give competitive corporate prices, even though our rates for leisure are much higher on the weekends, because we’re sold out every weekend,” he said.
Corporate retreats and meetings are a big part of the hotel’s business. O’Donnell said the entire hotel was recently rented out by two companies looking for privacy as they negotiated a merger and acquisition transaction.
“The beauty of the Q is that it’s close to all the action, but private,” Courey said.
Source: Montreal Gazette