Hospitality Heroes: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Fairmont hotels across the country have been pouring their energy and resources into supporting their staff and communities. “We’ve all done different things, [but] under the same brand ethos and DNA,” explains Edwin Frizzell, regional vice-president, Accor Central Canada and GM of Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York.

For large city hotels, such as the Royal York, Château Frontenac and The Queen Elizabeth, the pandemic meant a rapid evaporation of occupancy, with both the Royal York and Queen Elizabeth going from being fully booked to virtually shut down in less than 48 hours, resulting in mass layoffs.

The hotels’ first priority quickly became ensuring the safety of staff and guests, as well as supporting laid-off employees as best they could. “Recognizing that in very short order we placed a significant portion of our staff on furlough, it was all about creating an environment of support,” says Frizzell. “Taking care of our staff is core to the DNA of Fairmont.”

This meant implementing new communication platforms, including closed Facebook groups, so colleagues could keep in touch. The three hotels also created and delivered care packages, such as food hampers, to staff at home. “We produced more than 275 food baskets in the first three days for our staff,” David Connor, GM of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, says of his hotel’s efforts.
In April, Accor also launched the ALL Heartist Fund to support affected employees, as well as frontline workers and first responders. And, Frizzell notes, The Royal York’s ownership group, KingSett Capital, also extended benefits for those on layoff and supported the hotel’s donations to colleagues.

The properties then turned their eyes to finding ways to support their communities.

“In partnership with KingSett, we created the Rest-Safe program in partnership with three of the hospital foundations in downtown Toronto, Frizzell says, explaining the Royal York provided more than 10,000 complimentary room nights to healthcare workers through April and May.

In Montreal, Connor’s team also offered a special rate package for medical workers to help them protect their families and cut down on commute times.

The two Quebec hotels supported La Tablee des Chefs’ Cuisine Solidaires program. For the project, each hotel hired back about 30 staff members to prepare meals for those in need. “Our owners, Ivanhoé Cambridge, really had the vision to get involved,” Ken Hall, GM of Fairmont Château Frontenac, says of the initiative. “Over a two month period [Château Frontenac was] able to prepare 200,000 meals that went to different shelters and food banks all over Quebec.”

The Queen Elizabeth contributed an additional 250,000 meals to the effort.

Over the same period, the hotel also partnered with a Montreal-based organization to provide 850 breakfasts per day for homeless shelters, while the Château Frontenac donated meals to the local YWCA and worked with Moisson Quebec.

Through the pandemic, the Royal York has also continued its commitment to Make-A-Wish Canada. “In the past we’ve sponsored their Christmas events, giving hundreds of room nights to them throughout the year,” explains Megan van der Baars, the hotel’s Social Media manager. “This year we’re pivoting and we’re giving proceeds from our [holiday] turkey to-go [offerings] to Make-A-Wish.”

The hotels credit their on-property leadership, corporate team and hotel ownership for spearheading the range of initiatives they’ve undertaken through the crisis. “I give a great amount of credit to the senior leaders here at Fairmont Royal York
who have just done an incredible job,” says Frizzell. “And of course, we partner with our senior team at Accor here in North America.”

And, as challenges persist, continued engagement with team members remains a priority. Hall notes the Château Frontenac is working to find a creative solution that will allow its team to have some form of its children’s Christmas party.

Moving into winter, Connor also points to mental health as a key focus and has begun working to find a way to further engage and support staff. “Our regional director of Human Resources and I have spoken to four different firms to see what we can do together to reach out and nourish our people online, on a weekly basis, to help people deal with [the coming winter and what] we’re dealing with now,” he explains.

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