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Summer in Banff with No Place to Stay

Summer in Banff with No Place to Stay

Denis Roy, Operations manager for the Century Plaza Hotel and Spa, shares a unique experience one summer in majestic Banff, Alberta.

I started my hotel career officially in late 80s in Ontario but my first real taste of hotel work was in Banff, Alberta. Back then I was young and full of beans so I worked 7 days a week mostly doing the graveyard shift leaving the days open for skiing. I remember this one place called Timberline lodge where I spent a couple of nights a week. A small and comfortable 50 room hotel located on a hillside adjacent the main highway just outside of Banff village. The stars have never looked brighter from that hotel’s balcony and I would spend my mornings sipping coffee watching the deer and elk cross the hotel’s parking lot.

During the summer months when Banff was overflowing with tourists, it often happened that travelers were literally stuck with no place to stay, as every hotel in the village was at 100% occupancy and the other available option was a penthouse at the Banff Springs for $2500 a night. With all hope for a room exhausted in the village, travelers with no reservations had no choice but to hit the highway again where the nearest chance for a room might be two hours away in Calgary. Before hitting the highway the lonely beacon of the Timberline’s lights on the hillside told Dad to give one more hotel a try. With kids slumped in the back seat and Dad falling asleep at the wheel they were desperate for any place to rest for a few hours.

On one of these nights, such a family arrived and Dad and I discussed his predicament. I then mentioned that there was a large banquet room adjacent to the front desk. If he was interested I could set up some cots in there and he would have use of a private bathroom. To my surprise he loved the idea! We decided on $20 per cot and his security and privacy was assured as I had the only key to the banquet room. He and Mom then brought in 3 sleepy kids, cots were set up and were asleep in minutes. During that summer, other families in the same situation would cross my path in the wee hours of the morning. So I spent the summer bunking families and those I helped along the way thanked me with letters of appreciation.

Banff was my first real taste of hotels but it was that summer’s experience that brought out the “extra mile” sense of responsibility for me. A great personal satisfaction comes from helping out the weary traveler in their time of need. This ability to understand and communicate with people is the key for those young hoteliers starting out in this industry.

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