Hotelier: Colin McBeath


Sawridge Hotel, Edmonton

By the time he was 17, Colin McBeath knew he wanted to work in the hotel industry. “Expo 86 was breaking ground in Vancouver, and I grew up in Kitsilano near the old Expo site, but the buzz was around the stunning new hotels being built. I was more interested in them than Expo, so I knew I was hooked,” says the affable hotelier and father of three girls.

Starting as a doorman at the Chateau Lake Louise a year later, McBeath was immediately seduced by the industry. “The hotel gave me a place to sleep, they fed me and did my laundry — it was the best transition from home to living on your own,” he quips. Factor in the stunning scenery and great skiing in Lake Louise, and it’s easy to understand why McBeath has never had as much fun on so little sleep.

After travelling the world working for various brands, including Fairmont, McBeath has been happily settling in at the Sawridge Edmonton South for the past 18 months. The 43-year-old thrives on the challenges of leading the 136-suite boutique hotel. “I enjoy the freedom a smaller boutique-style hotel provides,” he says, comparing it to driving a sports car instead of school bus. “No offense to school bus drivers, but do you really like the ride,” he asks. And with the latitude to make instant decisions, he says he’s able to positively impact the guest experience. “It’s essential to creating the unique and personalized stay the vast majority of travellers are seeking.”

Nevertheless, with just under 100 employees, McBeath has his hands full. And he admits the lingering recession has made growing market share challenging. “There are no new revenue streams coming onto our doorstep, so you need to grow market share with your existing or declining number of guests.”

He’s also a firm believer in under-promising and over-delivering. “It’s the difference between a good stay and a great stay.” In today’s information age, this means taking advantage of the countless tools available. “For example, Facebook allows us to find out what guests want. We would be fools not to use it,” he says. “Have your concierge take a quick look at guests’ Facebook profiles to see what they like to do, or read, and deliver it to them before they ask for it. It’s not intrusive; it’s being proactive,” he says.

Since arriving at the Sawridge Edmonton almost two years ago, the hotel has completed a multi-million-dollar renovation of its atrium and lobby, adding the Creations Dining Room and Lounge as well as an Art Gallery, showcasing Canadian artists. “We’ve also renovated our meeting space and created unique and fun guest packages,” says McBeath. Plans are also afoot for a massive landscaping project as well as guest-room renovations.

“It’ll be fun to create an atmosphere that’s unique, comfortable and efficient, but which manages to hold on to the Sawridge core values,” says McBeath. As always, success is about knowing what guests want and delivering it consistently. “It’s easier said than done, but being proactive is critical. If we’re doing something poorly, we better find out how, and why and address it immediately.”

Photography by Roth & Ramberg


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