This summer I was lucky enough to take a family vacation with my brother, our parents and our kids to Canada. We started out RV camping in Jasper National Park, and ended at the Fairmont Castle in Banff (a shout-out to my brother who planned the whole trip). Now, let me paint a picture for you: there were seven of us in a six person RV. While we thoroughly enjoyed the RV and camping portion of our trip, imagine the sight of us piling out of the RV at the Fairmont Castle entrance.
As the younger kids hopped out of they RV they left a trail of Fruit Loops flying off their clothes and carried more stuffed animals in their arms than real animals within a 5-mile radius of us. We had the art of perfect timing too. In the lobby hotel guests were wearing evening attire for dinner reservations and let’s just say, non-RV living. I felt out of place. While we joked about Chevy Chase and National Lampoon vacation, it hit me that “Oh my gosh, we ARE the Griswald’s right now.”
The first person we met at the Bell Captain station greeted us as if he was expecting us, important guests, all day. He got a team to gather our luggage, insisted (despite my stubborn nature to carry my own bags) on taking every last bag and stuffed animal we had to deliver to our rooms. He called my brother “Sir” and I'm not even sure what he called me because I was probably looking around to see whom he was talking to. Once we arrived to our rooms two young women arrived with waters for us, and asked if there was anything we needed to get settled for the night. We exchanged pleasantries about where they were from, what to do in Banff and how our suite was one of their favorite rooms…they made us feel special. I got over my insecurity and started enjoying myself pretty darn quick. The big fluffy white robe and trip to the spa-whirlpool helped.
The story doesn’t end there. Every employee at the Fairmont Castle seemed to go out of their way to make sure we had the best time possible, even the young man running the bowling alley on the Fairmont property stopped to talk to us and gave the kids tips on 5-pin bowling. I was starting to wonder if my brother was royalty (well, he is to me). This experience echoed our entire stay. It was a sad morning when we had to load ourselves back into the RV and head home. I not only wanted to stay, I kinda considered moving there and applying for a job at the hotel because everyone seemed to be having so much fun! (I still might.)
Once home and settling back into non-Banff-Fairmont life, I stalked employees of the hotel on LinkedIn. I found the hotel manager, this is what he wrote back:
But it doesn’t end there either. Sonya and I connected and wrote back and forth (okay, so I was a little obsessed, I admit). Sonya took time and wrote a long and eloquent email about how she does it. I’m going to summarize some if her tips here:
• She loves what she does, literally loves her job.
• They only hire people that “love people” – if new employees don’t like people, they aren’t a fit at the Banff Castle.
• Smiles everyday, even on the bad days. She sees bad days as opportunity for learning and growth.
• Lives in optimism and belief that everything can be fixed.
• She builds relationships authentically and strives to work toward solutions.
• She embraces everyone. Everyone. (me included)
And here’s a happy ending, Sonya started at the Castle 22 years ago, age 18, cleaning rooms. She made a best friend within two weeks and that best friend was with her when she married her husband.
This is starting to sound like a Disney movie. However, I’ve been both places, Banff Fairmont Castle and Disneyworld in Orlando., and I felt more magic at the Castle. Sorry Walt.