By Clare Ogilvie
He has hosted presidents and princes and has even been known to walk a model’s runway for a good cause.
And now Michael Kaile, the new general manager of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, will lead the hotel as Whistler gets ready to host the world in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Top of mind for Kaile, who has worked in the hospitality industry for 35 years, is getting to know Whistler, and that means meeting as many people as possible.
“I really want to hear what people are saying and that will help me enrich my strategic plan as we go forward,” he said.
One of the first sets of people Kaile tapped into for information and suggestions were his hotel staff.
“When I first came here I asked my team, ‘what can I do for you?’ and (they said), ‘we need snow.’
“And the next morning I woke up and it was snowing and I said: ‘there you go. You asked the right person.’”
Jesting aside, Kaile has already targeted one area for work: year-round occupancy.
“Hotels are hugely labour and capital intensive,” said Kaile, who arrived in Whistler abut three weeks ago with wife, Diana.
“That is the nature of our business. So it really does require a higher level of annual occupancy than we are getting right now. That is already very much front and centre.”
Kaile replaced Paul Tormey, who has become regional vice-president and general manager of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston with responsibility for properties in Boston, New York, Washington and Bermuda.
Kaile’s last posting was as general manager of the Fairmont Dubai, which he opened in 2001. The position also gave him responsibility for the Fairmont property in Kenya. In 2004 he was named the Canadian Business Council of Dubai’s Canadian Business Person of the Year. In that same year the Dubai Fairmont was named the best hotel in the chain of 45 Fairmont properties.
Kaile admits there were challenges in managing the properties. But, he said, they have all made him a stronger manager.
“We worked with so many different cultures for one,” said Kaile. “We worked in so many different political climates and in areas that were sometimes difficult and I think one obviously matured, because they were often very difficult and stressful situations in markets that were frequently imperfect.
“Working overseas, it was an amazing experience. It was outstanding and there is a lot (about it) I really miss.”
Before Dubai Kaile worked in Bermuda, managing the Hamilton Princess resort.
In 1991 he opened the Waterfront Centre in Vancouver. It was quickly recognized as one of the premiere properties on the West Coast. In 1997 the entire hotel was taken over by the U.S. contingent for the APEC meeting, including then-President Bill Clinton.
In March of 1998 Prince Charles and sons Harry and William also stayed there as part of their visit to Canada.
Kaile, a graduate of the Westminster Hotel School in London, also captured the hearts of many visitors to the Waterfront by re-introducing a page to the hotel in 1996. Complete with pill-box hat, silver tray and white gloves, the page helped add some extra class to the lobby while also delivering messages to guests, helping with the elevator and acting as the hotel’s ambassador.
Returning to the West Coast was always part of Kaile’s vision. Not only does he own a home on Bowen Island, his son Rupert is a senior helicopter captain with London Air based in Vancouver.
“I promised my wife that after being away for eight years in Bermuda and Dubai that I would make every effort to come back,” said Kaile, admitting that he couldn’t have chosen a better time.