Speaker Reflection

The Oak Bay Beach Hotel has an unrivalled history to the community of Oak Bay, Victoria. Kevin Walker, the owner of The Oak Bay Beach Hotel, Walker Hospitality and other similar entrepreneurial ventures, discussed the challenges of associated with renovating a historic icon located in Victoria. I am fascinated by Mr. Walker’s passion for the ventures, which he undertook. He seemed unafraid of failure and welcomes tough decisions in an effort to build his business experience. Nonetheless, it was the story surrounding the importance of the local community to a hotel’s success that resonated with me. Martin Leclerc, the General Manager of the Fairmount Empress spoke about the necessity of engaging a community, and that during hard economic times local business can save the life of a hotel (personal communication, April 14, 2010). I believe that what Mr. Leclerc speaks about should influence businesses during more just hard economic times.  All large hotel chains practice social responsibility; Accent Inns supports community involvement through charity work, Marriott International pursues a philosophy that demonstrates community leadership and connectives. However, hotels rarely get the opportunity to intertwine themselves within the community. Kevin Walker experienced continual obstacles, yet I believe he had the chance to build his Oak Bay Beach Hotel into the local culture of the community. Mr. Walker described his attitude on overcoming community obstacles “When you’re a visionary, you must see past the obstacles in your way – listen but not hear what people have to say” (personal communication, April 14, 2010). I believe that Mr. Walker’s vision would emulate success with or without community engagement, however, his dedication and passion to the community of Oak Bay illustrates to me that this hotel was more important than just a business. His community passion is further is depicted when Mr. Walker, with great expense, managed to reclaim 95% of the original hotel material to be used in the new hotel. In fact, such great care was taken to ensure that the spirit of the original Oak Bay Beach Hotel would live on in the community “a very special place is coming back” to Oak Bay (Journal of Commerce, 2009).

Mr Walker’s entrepreneurial spirit fascinated me; Walker Hospitality seemed to make money out of nothing. He had a constant revenue stream without a tangible business to show for it. “If it is what you want to do, make it happen; don’t be afraid of making a mistake.” (Personal Communication, April 14, 2010). I think it is this attitude that makes an entrepreneur great. It seems that whenever money was short, or there was a risk of failure, Mr. Walker could manufacture a successful business to support his livelihood and the renovation of the hotel. He began Walker Hospitality as a management company and by 2005, he had successfully developed a business plan and management contract for Miraloma, a hotel in Sidney, BC (Walker, 2008). This new venture increased his entrepreneurial success, cash flow and would later provide business knowledge to assist Mr. Walker in rejecting fractional ownership, as a financing option, for the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Discovery Club is Kevin Walkers baby; I sensed an intense pride for this idea. It is brilliant; the company sells ownership stakes in Discovery Club which entitles members to the use services and amenities of hotels across the world. Discovery Club doesn’t incur any of the ownership costs associated with the properties used, and discovery club members experience all the benefits associated with these properties. In my opinion, the member gets all the benefits of a timeshare, without any of the headache of a timeshare. Nonetheless, I do not completely understand that this concept and I am sure there are aspects to this business venture which are not as positive as they look. However, I think it is incredible that Mr. Walker and this business venture can successfully generate capital during a recession while competing with large industry players like Resort Condominiums International.

The presentation, which Mr. Walker gave April 14, 2010, made me realise that there is so much more to hospitality than just hotels. In fact, this speaker series has taught me to think more towards the outside of the box in regards to my career. When I first walked into class during September 2009, I had a very specific idea of my prospective career after I graduated. During the last 6 months, of course work and the industry speaker sessions, my career prospects are more dynamic and complex than ever before; my mind is a jungle of different career ideas, and directions. I find this lack of career direction a pleasant, which leads me to my last point. I know one thing now more than ever; I want a career, which evolves with my personality.

References

Projects. (2008). Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://www.walkerhospitality.com/discovery.htm

Journal Of Commerce. (2009). New development at former Oak Bay Beach Hotel site takes green building to heart. Retrieved from http://www.joconl.com/article/id33547/watersewer

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