News this week that Caisse de Depot, Quebec’s giant pension fund has put two of Canada’s iconic hotels up for sale — Toronto’s Royal York and the Hotel Vancouver – gave me pause for thought. Both hotels harken back to the old days of travel by rail. Last year the fund divested the Chateau Laurier and the Empress in Victoria. Old hotels cost money. But I love a hotel with character and the patina of age, and I am very proud that Jesson has just been selected to represent the venerable Stafford Hotel in London’s St. James, tucked in behind the Palace in an old mansion and carriage house. It’s a jewel box and not to be missed the next time you are in London.
I spent a few years early in my career directing public relations for Four Seasons Hotels. While I was there I met two of the best travel and hospitality PR practitioners in North America and I am delighted to report that we are working together again! The story of how that came to be is a morality lesson. I would go so far as to say that Nicola Blazier has the best network of travel writers in the world. It was my lucky day when she joined the team at Jesson. Sharyn Thomas Counce got caught in the 2008 downdraft. I heard that she was hoping to return to one of the Four Seasons Hotels but the General Manager wanted someone “younger.” I called and she was on the next plane. And what a treasure he passed over.
Together we opened the Trump Hotel in Toronto delivering landslide coverage. But truth to tell, it was pretty easy. What really sets an agency and its PR team apart are the ones who can make news where there is none. We represent the Intercontinental Toronto Centre, a thirty year old property competing against all the newcomers that have arrived on the Toronto hotel scene. Sharyn Thomas Counce heads up the team that delivered about 240 million media impressions over the 12 months we have represented the hotel. That’s when an agency’s mettle shows.
Nicola heads up the Kempinski Hotel account. Kempinski is one of the oldest hotel companies in the world and holds in its portfolio some gracefully aged beauties as well as some of the most glamourous new hotels found anywhere. And what a job she is doing for them with stories in Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure, The Robb Report and many others. We back up the travel team with Christine Picheca’s knowledge and experience in food and beverage and this strong first string is supported by some of the finest young practitioners to come along — hardworking, eager to learn and quick to bring fresh thinking and their intuitive skills in the new social media.
I remember when I worked for Four Seasons, Issy Sharp would say you could build the most beautiful hotel in the world, and the next year someone else could open something newer and even more beautiful across the corner. According to him, the secret to success in the hotel industry lies in the people. It’s the same in the PR business. It’s all about the people.