As students in the Selkirk College resort and hotel management (RHOT), hospitality and professional cooking programs dove into their second month of studies, a visit by the head of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise helped provide additional incentive to make good use of their time learning about the industry.
Nestled in one of the most iconic locations in Canada, the Chateau Lake Louise has left visitors in awe of the soaring mountain peaks that surround the resort, majestic Victoria Glacier and the breathtaking emerald lake for more than a century. Currently enjoying one of its busiest years in recent history, the resort’s director of operations David MacGillivary stopped by Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus earlier this month to chat with first and second year students.
“We need to actively get into the colleges to let them know we are a great company and there are great opportunities for these students to grow their career,” MacGillivary said after his presentation.
“We’re an international company, so that provides a great opportunity for young graduates to step into our company and explore the many avenues available.”
A hotel chain with deep roots in Canada
The Chateau Lake Louise was first opened in 1890 by Canadian Pacific Hotels — a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway — as the company was building resorts in some of the most amazing locations in the country. The Banff Springs Hotel, the Chateau Frontenac (Quebec City), the Empress Hotel (Victoria), the Jasper Park Lodge and even the former Balfour House along the shores of Kootenay Lake were all part of an extensive operation that lured tourists from near and far.
In 2001, Canadian Pacific purchased Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and took the name of the much smaller chain in order to reflect a new international focus for the Canadian-based company.
Today, the company operates more than 70 hotels and resorts in 19 different countries including China, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Germany and the United States.
MacGillivary started with CP Hotels as a room service waiter in 1979 and over his 30-plus years with the company has worked at the Palliser Hotel in Calgary, the Banff Springs, the Fairmont Winnipeg, the Jasper Park Lodge, Chateau Laurier (Ottawa), Chateau Whistler and helped establish the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in South Africa.
He returned to the Chateau Lake Louise two years ago and now oversees the operation that employs up to 700 people at full capacity.
“It was very interesting,” said first year RHOT student Geoffrey Abubakary, who grew up in Kelowna.
“It’s great to meet contacts, especially for a chain hotel because those can be very important. It gets me excited to go into the industry and shows that I can make those leaps to go the places I want to go.”
Need at an all-time high
RHOT instructor Wendy Anderson worked for Fairmont for more than a decade, including a stint at the Chateau Lake Louise where she was the director of conference services. This summer, Anderson returned for a three-week contract where she helped her old boss MacGillivary fill a gap.
While she was discussing her new career path with MacGillivary, Anderson invited him to come and visit Nelson to let students know about the potential opportunities that await upon graduation.
“There is such a shortage in the industry right now, so for the students this is the right program to be in,” said Anderson, who joined Selkirk College in 2008. “When I went back to Lake Louise this summer I just couldn’t believe how busy it was; they were running close to full capacity every day.”
Anderson said the education and approach students in the hospitality programs are learning is well suited for companies like Fairmont.
“The students are at Selkirk because they are looking for a slightly different experience than you might get at a school in downtown Vancouver or Calgary,” she said.
“For a location like Lake Louise there is a bit of a different atmosphere and culture there, so this program is a good fit for resort communities like Lake Louise, Banff and Whistler.”
After the formal presentation, MacGillivary opened the floor to questions and the students had a chance to pick the brain of an industry veteran.
“The group asked great questions which was awesome,” said MacGillivary.
“And what I really like is that after the presentation the students came up to shake my hand, looked me in the eye and used my name which I thought was really engaging. And that is what we are looking for at Fairmont. It’s a very impressive group and I think that speaks to the program and the direction they are getting from their instructors.”
RHOT students will get an opportunity to engage with more industry insiders in the coming months when executives from Delta Hotels, Sheraton Hotels and Atlific Hotels pay a visit to Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus.
Learn more about the hospitality and tourism programs at Selkirk College at selkirk.ca/school/hospitality-tourism.