Running a hotel is a complex balancing act, requiring an understanding of the business basically from the ground up. The Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s search for a new leader began and ended with one person, Philip Meyer, who had previously been at the Wedgewood, a Relais & Châteaux property cherished by locals and visitors alike. The apocryphal story about that hotel has it that the president of CTV walked past, sometime in 2008, and stopped, insisting his company’s team have the hotel for the entirety of the 2010 Olympics. He was working with the legendary and now much lamented Eleni Skalbania, who almost single-handedly turned the Wedgewood into such a destination.
The Hotel Georgia is a different matter, but that is precisely why Meyer considered a move to become its managing director. “I was interested in what this kind of challenge would bring,” he says. “I was comfortable where I was, loved the Wedgewood, but this was, to me, a very exciting opportunity.” It was not as simple as moving on down the street, however. “I had to look at every aspect of the operation, and understand what could be done with it,” Meyer explains. “It took some time, but I realized this was something I needed to do.” He relaxes, nearly finished his lunch at Hawksworth, his gaze restlessly taking in the service, the traffic in the place. “For me, a great hotel must be inter-connected, no silos in the operation. If we serve wine in three or four places, there still has to be a central philosophy, a common ground among the places,” he says. “We don’t want one standard of wine service in the restaurant and a different one in the lounge or the bar.” So, while Hawksworth has a wine list, and the Prohibition night spot has its own, they do share buying power, and tend to charge similar prices for their libations.
The same is true for service in all areas. “We do attract some international travellers who are used to the highest levels of luxury, and that includes service,” Meyer says. “But it has to include everything: the reception desk, the room-cleaning service, the maintenance teams. There is no such thing as an unimportant person working in this hotel.” Chances are, that fact translates into a healthy effort by all staff, a kind of esprit du corps that he sees as central to ongoing success. “When we hit speed bumps, which is always going to happen, I often ask myself what Eleni would do,” he admits. “Between her advice and my experience, it is usually a positive outcome when we face the daily challenges.”
As Vancouver adds even more high-end accommodation, someone like Meyer is in a unique, influential position to bring the game fully forward, as the city evolves. Judging from some recent visits, it is safe to say the Hotel Georgia, at least, appears to be in good hands.
UPDATE, August 2018: Philip Meyer has moved to California to be managing director of Rosewood Sand Hill.
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