The Westin Edmonton brings a new meaning to the term “support local”. For General Manager, Joumana Ghandour, that support is a give and take relationship with her city’s entrepreneurial, small business community.
Through the pandemic, as The Westin Edmonton’s reliance on local, staycationing guests intensified, so too did the realization that the property would need to offer new programming, products, and services to enhance the guest experience.
Micrometrics Marketing Lead, Dave Hale, sat down with Joumana to discuss:
- how she selected which local partners would offer experiences her guests would enjoy,
- how to nurture relationships in your local community,
- and how she thinks these efforts will evolve in the post-pandemic world.
Joumana is a strong collaborator who believes that success is driven by being inclusive, embracing all stakeholders and participants. After completing a Masters in Hotel and Food Administration at the University of Guelph, Joumana started her career in 1998 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto. Since 2005 she has been General Manager in three different markets, before joining the Westin Edmonton team as general manager in 2012.
“When I first came, I felt I did not know as much about Edmonton and I think it’s a bit underrated,” Joumana said. “So, other than the Oilers and the West Edmonton Mall, I discovered the river valley is beautiful, and I think it’s bigger in space than Central Park. The Fringe Festival is the second-largest in the world after the one in Scotland. We have a beautiful art scene, our hotel is right next door to the Winspear where the Edmonton symphony orchestra plays. We’re close to the Citadel Theatre, the art gallery, and the recently opened Royal Alberta Museum which is not too far from us. So, I would say that we’re in the arts district and, of course, I’m sure everybody knows the new home for the Oilers Rogers Arena, the ice district which is just blocks away from us. It’s an amazing place for families to grow. It’s a wonderful city.”
Selecting local partners
Joumana started by saying, “when you asked me about what makes Edmonton special it’s that there is a spirit of entrepreneurship.” She and her Director of Sales and Marketing, Roberto Medrano, came up with the idea to create partnerships with local businesses and craftspeople to host events in the property’s meeting spaces. The meeting areas had enough room to properly follow social distancing protocols and other restrictions and gave them the opportunity to create experiential packages. One of the experiences that they offered could only be accessed after enjoying a three-course dinner menu planned by the chef and then having a superfood-chocolatier come in to speak to the group. It was a great success and has laid the recipe for future events. Joumana excitedly said: “the rest of the team got involved by finding partners that we know that will fit the profile, which is doing something wellness-oriented [as per the Westin brand values] and has a high degree of quality service.”
Nurturing relationships in your local community
During the pandemic, Joumana and her team were looking for ways to help out their local community during that stressful time. “I had heard an interview with an executive director on the radio talking about the challenges that the restrictions had on shelters and in homes like the Ronald McDonald House. So I just phoned them, and I said, we have rooms, you have people who have treatments, nothing’s changed – they still have to go. So, we struck a partnership with Ronald McDonald House and then another agency. [The partnerships] gave us, I would say, some traffic in the sense of purpose,” Joumana said.
Another way that the Westin Edmonton was able to give back to the community was through their Beat the Heat initiative. Joumana explained, “at the end of June we were expecting 37 degrees temperature, and I don’t know if you know that most houses in Edmonton don’t have air conditioning. It’s dry heat for one thing and usually not that many days to justify it. So, we reached out to our associates that were our associate base and said sorry if you’re having air conditioning issues. We offered them to stay at the hotel, again at a nominal fee, and then something prompted us to say ‘why don’t we offer a good rate to our community.’ As soon as I got on the news the phones were ringing, and we were able to accommodate about 100 guests with the beat the heat rates.”
How local partnerships will evolve in a post-pandemic world
“Our business base is shifting,” Joumana stated. She continued to say, “hotels are focusing on how to attract more leisure business and if people maybe can’t afford to be going to a resort or somewhere like that you want your urban resorts to experience more and more.” Joumana believes that by focusing on creating experiences and packages she can help attract more people to Edmonton. “Oftentimes you think of Alberta, maybe you think of the mountains or you think of Calgary. We’re trying to find those destinations where you come to Edmonton and it’s beyond the mall. So, even when things reopen, you’ll have to [rely on] what’s in the hotel. Knowing what’s in your neighborhood that is within a reasonable drive and you can create an experience so people don’t have to do the work, they just come and we take care of it for them.”
Joumana is working with her team to find even more people that they can partner with to create experiential packages which she hopes will be a draw for members of the community and for those thinking about visiting Edmonton. They have many ideas up their sleeve including partnering with local vendors, a magician, a hypnotist, a dance teacher, and expanding their packages further by offering family packages on top of the couples packages that they now offer.
Dave and Joumana go into even more detail and questions in the webinar so feel free to listen to it HERE. As a reminder, Micrometrics believes that businesses should create more meaningful connections with the people they serve by enhancing face-to-face interactions and creating connections with guests at scale. Our hospitality clients leverage powerful messaging automations to improve customer experience and operational efficiency at their properties. You can learn more about us at https://www.micrometrics.com/hospitality/