A Chat with the GM Leonard Wiens

Leonard 2

You have been in the hospitality industry for 33 years, how did you get into the hotel  business?

That is an interesting story. I came from managing a year round church camp and conference center in the Chilliwack area. The general manager position at the Comfort Inn became available and after some research decided that walking to work was very appealing. I applied for and was given the position at the Comfort Inn, a position I held for 18 years. Another reason I was attracted to the hospitality industry also stems from my traveling experiences and the fact that the hospitality industry is a clean industry. Also, typically people are happy when they are travelling – guests are usually looking forward to their experiences. I enjoy helping people get the best out of their travel experience so being in a hotel where one often looks to for information just seemed to be a natural fit.

You recently came on board as the General Manager of the 105 year old Royal Hotel. What prompted you to join the Royal?

One of the things that prompted me to join the Royal was that it’s an iconic place in the community of Chilliwack. The hotel has been well preserved and maintained and offers a unique experience for guests. That is what attracted me to the Royal. Although a well-known and iconic site in Chilliwack, my observation was that it was not performing as well as it could. To me that presented a challenge and an opportunity. My goal is to make the hotel more of a destination and a unique offering thereby earning our fair market share – or better – in the community. Our features and character should give us an advantage over other hotels in the area.

What three words best describe the Royal Hotel?

Character – there is nothing cookie-cutter about the Royal Hotel. Clean – that best describes the hotel – it’s impeccably clean. This is why we do double checks of each room before releasing rooms to guests. Caring – I chose that word because as staff we care that each guest gets the best experience at the hotel – we care and ensure your reservations are made correctly. We don’t have an elevator – we are happy to assist you with your bags. We want to be known for our exquisite service.

If you were considering staying at the Royal Hotel, what would you want to know before making a reservation?

Given that the Royal is a heritage hotel, I would want to know if the amenities I would normally find in a hotel room be in my room at the Royal Hotel, as well. As much as I like the historical experience, I would not like having to use a bathroom located down the hall! I would also want to know that the guest rooms are air conditioned and that the fire and safety equipment meet current standards. I would also like to know that the hotel is conveniently located in the downtown and has a café or restaurant onsite. Another thing I may want to know is that meeting space is available in the hotel.

What is the most challenging thing about being a hotel general manager?

I think (overall) the last few years the most challenging thing is keeping up to date on how guests look for information -from where they are travelling to where they are staying. There was a time when all a hotel had to do was have a listing in the accommodations guide, now the internet has changed that. Marketing has changed with the integration of various forms of media including social media. It is a challenge keeping ahead of the curve. At the same time an additional challenge is how to maintain a personal touch with our guests – in the end people want to be treated like an individual rather than just a reservation number. Both components need to be in place, the high tech and high touch need to work together. Staying abreast of constant changes in high tech is a challenge – with information constantly in flux.

There must be a lot of history in a 105 year old hotel. Can you share your most interesting bit of the history of the Royal Hotel?

I always find the story of Room “0” interesting. As much as the Berry Family that owned and operated the Royal for 70 years had their house nearby, they made the hotel their home. Room “0” played a significant role as this was Buck Berry’s room. (Barry, our long time night person, can attest to never having heard or seen anything supernatural …although sometimes the creaks and groans of an old building help to keep him awake during his shift.)

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