Any experienced hotel guest knows the person who holds the room keys also holds the power to make or break your stay.
Kevin Dyck, the Front Office Manager at the Delta Hotel in Winnipeg, agrees it takes a certain personality type to hold down the front desk at a major hotel.
“You need to be warm and genuine,” he says. “The people that have success genuinely want guests to have a good stay.”
And the ability to make a connection with a guest during a two-minute check-in isn’t something that can be taught – not even in Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program. Dyck, who graduated from the course in 2005, says that’s one of the first lessons he learned at RRC.
“People were weeded out pretty quickly through the program, which is a good thing because the people that are truly committed to working in the industry were left. It’s not for everybody.”
Yes, there’s far more to the job than locating freshly laundered towels. Quick thinking and problem solving skills are essential when you’ve got a medical emergency, an overbooked hotel, a flooded bathroom, a broken elevator or unhappy guests on your hands.
“You have to be on your toes and be able to easily adapt because you never know what’s going to happen,” says Dyck.
RRC’s classroom and on-the-job training prepared Dyck – and nearly one-third of his current staff – for such situations. Seven of the 30 employees in his department are Hospitality and Tourism graduates, including Guest Service Agents Star Wang, Kira Clarridge and Claire Yu, Service One Operators Keunjoon Lee and Nina Shi, Assistant Front Office Manager Tiffany Tang, Yuan Chen, who works on the 12th-floor executive lounge, and, of course, himself.
Dyck figures the number of RRC grads on staff at the Delta Winnipeg will only grow, since many students are hired after completing their co-op work experience.
“Coming from the program, you know they’re committed to the industry so they’re not just coming in looking for a job,” he says. “They have the schooling and the commitment [to prove] that they want to work in the industry.”
They also (literally) have a world of opportunity before them. The Delta in Winnipeg, for example, is one of 6,000 hotels around the globe owned by the Marriott chain. So you can imagine all of the in-house job openings.
“If you want a new challenge or if you’re young and you want to move, the world’s really at your fingertips,” especially if you are willing to learn other languages, says Dyck.
You really never know where Hospitality and Tourism training will take you.
Dyck, for one, enrolled with no intention of working at a hotel. He had planned to become a restaurant manager. But his first work placement at Centro Caboto Centre piqued his interest in running banquets and led him to full-time employment as the Food and Beverage Manager there.
He moved to Edmonton shortly after to work in event management while his wife studied at the University of Alberta, then returned home to Winnipeg in 2009 for a job at the Delta. He was promoted to Front Office Manager in 2015, and hopes to continue working his way up in the ranks by becoming a Director of Operations and eventually managing a Marriott property.
“Whenever I talk to grads or people entering the program I tell them to just keep their eyes open, especially when it comes to the co-op, because you never know who you’re going to meet or where that job is going to take you,” says Dyck.
“If I had shut off that initial co-op because that wasn’t my first choice of placement, who knows where I would be right now. It’s what moved me forward.”
Dyck’s practical training at RRC – such as a final project where he was required to run a mock hotel – mirrors a lot of his real-life duties at work, where his days involve anything from administrative duties to shaking hands with celebrity clientele (past guests include Wayne Gretzky and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau).
He has seen many of his former classmates enjoy similar success in both the hotel and restaurant industries, and with the program now being delivered out of the Exchange District Campus, he expects the industry momentum to continue.
“Looking at the program now, I’m really proud to see where it is,” Dyck says. “It’s cool to see where it has gone with the new campus. They’re turning out a lot of high quality graduates.”
— Profile by Lindsey Ward (Creative Communications, 2004)
Shown above, from left: Tiffany Tang, Kevin Dyck, Nina Shi, Claire Yu, Yuan Chen and Star Wang.