Raoul Malak’s Vision for the Future
How the Westin Bear Mountain Will Face the New Decade
The Westin brand of hotels has a long-established reputation for providing upscale accommodation, paired with excellent customer service and all the amenities that come with fine living. From its modest beginnings in 1930, with 17 properties being operated across Washington state under the name of Western Hotels, Westin Hotels and Resorts has now grown to 223 properties around the world.
One such property is the Westin Bear Mountain, located in the Greater Victoria Area of Vancouver Island of Langford, BC where the Bear Mountain community is touted as being resort living at its finest. The property was recently sold by property developer Ecoasis to entrepreneur Raoul Malak. “I have a very clear vision,” Malak says, “about what we are going to do in the next two to three years with this magnificent property.”
At the heart of this vision is an almost complete make-over for the hotel, which Malak considers to be the first phase of transformation, that will ultimately bring it a five-star rating. The years-long path Malak is set to put the Westin Bear Mountain on could be likened to a great story, in which the hotel itself is the struggling underdog who is destined for great things. As Malak puts it, the hotel “is not used to five-star service,” and he adds that “we have some wonderful opportunities to set the rules we will operate by.” These opportunities will come in the form of facilitating top-notch customer service and providing some necessary services (such as a shuttle to downtown) that will raise the overall quality of the hotel. But the most significant challenge will be in the renovation of the property itself.
The facelift is set to begin in the public areas of the hotel, with plans in motion to restructure the patio and banqueting areas to include seating for virtually double the number of guests that these areas can currently host. Naturally, with the increased amount of seating, the overall vision for the Westin Bear Mountain includes the creation of an additional kitchen to accommodate the increased food and beverage service. Once the banqueting and patio areas have been restored to suit a five-star hotel, renovation will begin on the other public areas.
One of these areas is the front desk, which currently has attendants working at a long desk that separates them from the guests. In the vision for the Westin Bear Mountain of the future, the front desk boasts a modern open concept that, together with cutting-edge communications technology, will enable the front-desk attendants and other hotel staff to provide five-star service. “We will be moving this property into the 21st century using technology and communication to encourage our employees to provide the best service possible,” Malak adds. With the installation of up-to-date communications technology, guests will be able check in using a mobile app that will also tell them if their room is available yet. This new technology is expected to be implemented as early as next spring.
Together with intensive remodelling, the vision for the Westin Bear Mountain will include subtle touches that are designed to elevate the guests’ overall experience from merely satisfactory to of one of luxury and fine living. The interior of the hotel’s public areas currently center around a colour palette that is largely made of black and shades of brown. In the future, the colour palette will consist of vibrant yet welcoming colours that draw the guests in and make them feel at home in their luxurious surroundings. Influenced by art in the everyday, Mr. Malak adds that art will be installed in a progressive, rather than traditional, way. “Art”, in this case, doesn’t refer to the typical framed pictures that can be seen gracing hotel walls everywhere. Rather, the colour palette and the lighting will work together to create an immersive experience for the guests. “We are going to use light in a way that will become both lighting and art at the same time,” Malak says.
The second phase of the Westin’s grand vision involves creating an environment that people want to be in, and not just the guests, but the staff as well. Part of Malak’s aim is for the Westin to be an environment that its team will enjoy coming to since their work life experience is reflected in their interactions with guests which ultimately results in happy guests returning to the hotel. “It will be a place people want to be in. People always like to be associated with success. The more successful you are, the more people want to be associated with you,” Malak says. “We will get to a point where people will want to be a part of resort because they see it as a successful, supportive and progressive place to work.”
Even with a top-notch team, Raoul Malak is going to have his hands full turning this four-star property into the five-star hotel he envisions. Speaking with him, however, you wouldn’t think it’s so seemingly difficult. “I have always thrived on challenges where the light at the end of tunnel is led by vision and perseverance. They motivate me to execute”, he says. “To me, anything is achievable.” And it seems that this conviction will certainly fuel the transformation of the Westin Bear Mountain.