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Lakeview Group of Companies

lakeviewspring16

Fifty-two years after Keith Levit’s father founded Lakeview as a land development firm, the company has evolved into one of the largest Canadian-born hotel brands. As a photographer, Levit has a nationwide showcase on the walls at Lakeview Hotels & Resorts. “We acquire hotels so I can have more wall space for my art,” he jokes.

Levit joined his father’s company in 1983 after earning a master’s degree in real estate and regional science. Around that time, Lakeview began its first major surge into the hotel industry. The company redeveloped two properties into Sheraton hotels and built a third from the ground up – making it the first developer to open three Sheraton hotels in the same year. “That’s one way to get into the hotel industry,” Levit says.

In the beginning, Sheraton managed those properties until Lakeview eventually took that management in-house. The company later secured the exclusive right to bring the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson brand of hotels to Canada in the early 1990s. This gave Lakeview the experience of introducing a new brand into the market.

By the late 1990s, Lakeview introduced its namesake hotels into the market and converted its Country Inns into Lakeview Inns & Suites. Today, it manages 21 Lakeview Hotels & Resorts as well as two Four Points by Sheraton properties.

Targeting the Right Market

lakeviewinfobox copyOne of the company’s flagship hotels is Lakeview Hecla Resort, located two hours north of Winnipeg. The 90-room Hecla Resort has seen several owners over the years – including the province of Manitoba – but it never could find success.

“When Lakeview took over the property in late-2012 we rethought the resort’s target market and shifted the focus to families looking for a weekend getaway. Room rates were lowered to entice Manitoba visitors who could make the two-hour drive to the hotel but couldn’t afford to stay there before,” says Chris Miller, vice president of operations.

That strategy has been a success and occupancy rates have surged. Even during the frigid winter – which drives away many visitors – the resort is a busy place. “Operationally, we have better controls in place and we’re appealing to the market the resort should have been appealing to in the first place,” Miller says.

Having opened its doors in 2013, The Grand Winnipeg Airport Hotel by Lakeview is another flagship property and the company’s newest hotel. With 101 rooms featuring modern amenities such as in-room iPads, the Grand’s boutique offerings build on Lakeview’s history of providing innovative technology that guests want – Lakeview was the first Canadian hotelier to offer customers Internet access and wi-fi.

The hotel is also focused on staying green, favoring the use of iPads and TV screens in place of paper guest directories, offering water via reusable glass bottles, using locally sourced ingredients in its Blue Marble Restaurant and even growing its own garnishes in the restaurant’s urban cultivator. All of these traits culminate into an elegant presentation for business and leisure travelers alike. “It’s basically giving the guests the experience that will make them smile,” Levit says of the Grand’s approach.

Team Atmosphere

Lakeview’s efforts are ultimately tied to that goal of making its guests smile, including its approach to employees. “Make your staff happy and they’ll make your guests happy,” Levit explains. The company’s executives have a hands-on leadership style, and strive to eliminate divisions between themselves and hotel staff. This open atmosphere has resulted in many employees who have stuck with Lakeview for more than 25 years, a fact the company takes pride in.

“It’s very much a family,” Miller explains. “It doesn’t feel like it’s a corporate philosophy; it feels like you’re a part of this team philosophy and the employees want to be a part of that.”

The company works to support its employees and develop their skills. More than four years ago, Lakeview implemented an online training program called Lakeview Management University that includes videos and testing tailored to the employee’s role. Lakeview is able to monitor the training to ensure employees are meeting company standards.

The bulk of Lakeview’s properties are in the Alberta and British Columbia oil patch, but despite the industry decline there, the company remains resilient. Miller attributes that resilience to the low value of the Canadian dollar encouraging people to vacation closer to home. Further, he says Lakeview’s reputation in the market is drawing guests to its hotels.

“We have a passion for the service industry and that’s our backbone: providing service to our guests,” Levit adds. mt

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