Your view might be stunning. Your hotel room might be luxurious. Your steak might taste divine. But pair any of them with poor service, and all of those potentially positive memories will be clouded with nastiness. When you come right down to it, it’s the people in the hospitality sector who define the visitor experience. In this article, we ask a number of professionals from across Atlantic Canada to talk about their dealings with the public — and how they work to create special moments that guests will treasure forever.
Captain, Theodore Tugboat
(Worked here 8 years)
Theodore Tugboat is a Halifax Harbour landmark. A group of tourists can almost always be found taking pictures with the TV series-based tugboat. Theodore tours the harbour daily from June to September, rain or shine, drawing crowds of dazzled children and nostalgic adults.
“The best part of this job is seeing the people who used to watch the show as a kid, when they come around the corner and they’re not expecting to see him there. It’s also great taking kids around, seeing how happy they are and how excited they get when they see the boat. There aren’t too many moments that aren’t happy on Theo.”
Susan Christie and Bella Cruikshank
Front Desk Agents, White Point Beach Resort
White Point, N.S.
(Worked here 6 years and 21 years respectively)
Located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, White Point Beach Resort has long been the go-to getaway for visitors from all over who are drawn to the white sand beach and relaxed atmosphere. Devastated by fire in 2011, the resort has bounced back into busy summers and steady, fireside winters.
“It’s not like a hotel here — it’s not checking people in, checking people out. It’s just different for some reason. At a wedding one time, the bride’s bouquets didn’t show up and we actually picked flowers from the garden and made bouquets for her.” – Susan
“We’re a family here and we get attached to our repeat guests. When you come here you feel like you’re coming home.” – Bella
Supervisor, Highland Links Golf Course
Ingonish Beach, N.S.
(Worked here 5 years)
For golfers, nature-lovers and sightseers alike, the Cape Breton Highland Links, ranked among the best golf courses in the world, is a must-see. With the ocean on one side and a mountainous backdrop, the Stanley Thompson-designed course draws visitors ranging from Sydney, N.S. to Sydney, Australia.
“Each person that comes in has a different story to tell, and everyone wants to come in and tell you. They make a point of coming back inside to say thank you, or that the course is beautiful, or that they saw a moose or an eagle. It’s only a short season so you have to make it the best it is. Everybody’s positive here. There’s no better place on earth to work.”
General Manager, Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers
North Rustico, P.E.I.
(Worked here 25 years)
You can’t travel to P.E.I. without experiencing the truly islander tradition of the lobster supper. Fisherman’s Wharf off ers harbour views, an all-you-caneat 60-foot salad bar, and a gift shop for those P.E.I. souvenirs.
“No day is ever the same. We see new faces every day. We’re known for good quality, fine service, everything is fresh — it’s a traditional lobster supper. We’re a friendly spot. We’ve had marriage proposals happen here and then they come back on their anniversaries. The atmosphere is very happy and very hectic. It’s always a buzz.”
General Manager, Kindred Spirits Country Inn and Cottages
(Worked here 8 years)
A hop, skip and a jump from Green Gables lies Kindred Spirits, where you’ll find quaint cottages, green countryside and all things Anne. Visitors from all over the globe are drawn to the simple and rustic atmosphere of this summer hideaway.
“We do a tea in the evenings and we’ve had 11 countries there at one time. We’ve had guests sit at this tea from all walks of life, then they’re eating breakfast together the next morning, making day plans with each other. We’ve had guests meet here, then plan their vacations around the same time of year and come back. There’s something really special about the guests you meet and the connections they make with each other.”
Manager, COWS Creamery, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
(Worked here 10 years)
Whether it’s the hilarious Holstein T-shirts or the award-winning ice cream on handmade waffl e cones, it doesn’t get more P.E.I. than a trip to COWS. The company has expanded into the cheese and butter industry and now has stores as far away as Beijing.
“Everyone’s genuinely happy here. When you walk into a COWS store and you see the smiles and you hear the laughter — it’s so genuine; it’s a fun environment. We have customers that come back every year and we remember them. I had a customer come in yesterday and drop off coins for my son because they know he collects them. They visit me every year and bring me a bunch of coins from their travels.”
Property Manager, Hopewell Rocks
Hopewell Cape, N.B.
(Worked here 18 years)
The promotional literature declares that Hopewell Rocks sits at that very nexus on Earth where the gravitational forces of the sun and moon combine to create some of the highest tides anywhere. An international tourism destination, this place has inspired both laughter and tears in equal measure at one of the most dramatic coastal vistas in Canada.
“One of the greatest pleasures of my work day is to be able to talk to people. One couple from Texas had come several years ago partially to see what their son, who had passed away in a vehicle accident, had loved so much about this place when he first saw it on a school trip. That was an eye-opener to me… I’ve seen grown people looking at the rocks and crying their eyes out.”
Manager, Magnetic Hill Zoo
(Worked here 26 years)
The Magnetic Hill Zoo is staff ed with 14 full-time people year-round. The popular venue owes its success to the hard work and dedication of these individuals, whose continuous eff orts ensure that the Zoo maintains its high standards of care of its indigenous and exotic species.
“What we are trying to do is get families, who have a lot of screen time in front of them, to come here and really bond with nature… Magnetic Hill’s outdoor setting allows people to reconnect with the natural world in a fun and educational way. For a population of 70,000, this zoo is quite large. There aren’t many in this country that are as green or as nice as this one.”
Founder, St. John’s Haunted Hike
(Worked here 18 years)
Headquartered in the Masonic Temple (a designated Heritage building), Spirit of Newfoundland Productions is a multi-faceted entertainment company celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016. In addition to catering and their Screech Room museum, they host 120 “dinner and a show” productions annually, many of which are original pieces written by Peter Halley (he and Kathie Hicks are co-owners).
“I started the St. John’s Haunted Hike in 1997, when I was still a student of Folklore at Memorial University. One night, early in the history of the Hike, an older local woman came up to me after one of the tours and said, ‘I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve never been down that alleyway.’ I realized in that moment that even in places we think we know well, there are always hidden tales and unseen treasures. One of my great successes has been showing local people their own history, their own stories, in an interesting, novel way.”
Host and Bar Manager, Spirit of Newfoundland Productions
(worked here almost 8 years)“Join us, if you dare,” reads the website for the St. John’s Haunted Hike. Travelling past forgotten cemeteries, unmarked graves and buildings “known” to be inhabited by restless spirits, storyteller guides regale guests with tales of public hangings, duels and horrific murders. Its founder, Dale Jarvis, was awarded the City of John’s 2015 Legends Award for his significant contribution to the enhancement of tourism.
“Our goal every night, the Spirit of Newfoundland philosophy, is for each of our staff to be a great Newfoundland ambassador … hospitable, kind, friendly, charming. Many of our servers are practically performers because of how well they entertain their guests. And if someone isn’t in the best of moods when they get here, we pick up on that and ‘super serve’ them. We’ll be extra courteous and extra patient, because we’re not happy unless our customers are happy. That’s my favorite part of my job, seeing the twinkle in the eyes of happy, laughing, excited customers.”