Monica Hayes says she learned the value of healthy competition working with Victor Burt, general manager of Whistler’s Westin Resort and Spa.
"Whether it was the hotel’s softball team or an evening of snowmobiling or bowling, the gloves were off and you couldn’t help but be your best and try to win," said Hayes, director of communications and advertising.
Burt is leaving his GM position Friday, April 28 to become senior director, operations with Starwood Hotels, Westin’s umbrella company. For the past seven years, since ground was first broken on the hotel, Burt has been a constant presence at the resort. He says it’s not going to be easy to leave.
"It’s very mixed emotions," Burt, 46, said in an interview at the hotel’s FireRock Lounge.
"It will be an adjustment, not working in one property with all the team inside. But the good news is being based in Vancouver, I’ll be staying in contact with this property."
Burt will oversee operations for all Starwood properties between San Francisco and Kelowna. The new position is a logical progression for the sports-loving hotelier who was raised in the hotel business – his father was a Hilton manager. Burt applies teamwork principles he acquired studying hotel management on a baseball scholarship at Washington State University, near Spokane.
"It’s been great working with the team," he said of the Whistler hotel he is leaving. "It’s all about the players within the property. The physical nature of the property is always there and gets you on the playing field, but it’s the people that make the difference."
Burt said his new position means a move back to their Ambleside family home in West Vancouver and will demand time away from wife Sandra and daughters Samantha, 13, and Rachel, 10.
"There will be more travel – 40 per cent of the time will be on the road – but it will be quicker trips and won’t be over weekends," he said.
Although he’s leaving Whistler, Burt speaks about the area’s challenges as if he were staying.
"One of the things we need to do is continue to evolve and add more amenities for our guests so we can truly become that year-round resort," he said. "And how you capture that in a brand image is really important… we’ve got to be careful because you can’t commoditize the experience of what this brand is all about."
"But the issues we’re facing with our market will pass," he said, "We’ve got incredible opportunities with the Olympics coming up. It’s just been an absolute treat and whoever comes in will feel that same way as well."
A replacement for Burt has not yet been decided.