Bonnie Strome is the hotel manager of a hotel manager. She is passionate about going to work every day, even after 29 years in the company – the last eight as General Manager of Park Hyatt in Yorkville.
The hotel opened in 1936 on Bloor and Avenue as the Park Plaza Hotel and has been a landmark ever since, welcoming prime ministers, royalty, members of the local arts and literary community and international luminaries who flocked to Yorkville when the Toronto International Film Festival took up residence there.
During this 85-year history, the hotel has undergone some major renovations, but none as big as its latest facelift, which saw doors close for almost four years. “I become the general manager for the most exciting reopening in town,” said Strome. Part of the remodel involved downsizing from 346 rooms to 219, to create larger spaces that Strome calls “the perfect size for luxury.” The redevelopment also added 65 rental apartments and the return of the legendary bar, now called the Writers Room (formerly the Roof Lounge).
Strome’s entire career has prepared her for this high-pressure project, unique in a generation, for one of Toronto’s most recognized hotels, even though she didn’t realize it at the time. She hadn’t planned a life in the hotel business. Having studied travel and tourism in Sheridan, Strome imagined himself working on an exotic island. “In fact, I’ve never entered the tourism space,” she says. “I did an internship in a hotel and I never left.”
Strome, whose first job was at the front desk of the Delta Meadowvale in Mississauga, found this career aligned with his passion for creating memorable guest experiences. “It’s a very favorable industry and it puts you a little bit in the blood,” she explains. “It’s 24 hours a day. You never say, ‘The office is closed today, we’re all coming home.’ It is addictive and I have noticed it over the past three years when I had no operating hotel. You quickly forget how much energy there is in a hotel all the time. And I missed it.
It’s impossible not to hear Strome’s excitement as she talks about the reopening, which was officially on September 15. The closing was an emotional moment for her, and the team said goodbye with a big party in the hotel lobby. “It was one of the highs of the shutdown,” she said, “seeing everyone so excited and proud of what they had accomplished.
“What really motivates me is the team,” she adds, “and you learn along the way if you lead well, because the team will tell you. When people are happy to come to work, it makes a big difference in our success. ”
During the shutdown, the team worked with interior design firm Studio Munge, which drew inspiration from the seasons and landscapes of Canada for every element of the renovation. “The architecture and design are breathtaking,” she says. “It’s not something to expect in Toronto. “
Canadian art is now a focal point, including pieces by Indigenous artists and a large tapestry that greets guests by artist Shannon Bool. “The entrance has beautiful metal panels on the ceiling that give the impression of a starry night,” says Strome. “When the guest walks into the lobby, it feels like they are in a world-class art exhibit.”
It’s been a lot of work for Strome, but she sees her efforts all over the hotel. Knowing that little details matter when it comes to stylish spaces like this, she has spent her time perfecting them – from helping with the selection of bedroom accessories to choosing porcelain and porcelain. glassware. “I was able to contribute to a lot of these design and construction elements,” says Strome.
Strome, who has been personally involved in the hiring process for every position on her team, is passionate about advocating for the hospitality industry, which she says needs support more than ever. She volunteers with the Greater Toronto Hotel Association (where she was previously president) and Destination Toronto, which focuses on recovery and promoting the city’s cultural offerings to visitors and Torontonians.
“People miss the opportunity to meet and socialize,” says Strome. “Being able to come together in hotels and interact with others is (something) people are going to be able to appreciate as we see the hospitality industry start to recover.”
Another factor that drives Strome is her position as the head of a full-service luxury hotel. She says it’s more and more common see GM women, but that was not the case in its early days. She mentors both men and women in her organization, but often, she says, “I feel like I have a different responsibility to work with our leaders who want to aspire to different roles.
For Strome, holding a senior position at such a reputable hotel was also a great example for his two daughters. “When I became CEO,” she says, “I didn’t realize how proud I was that my daughters saw that their mother had reached this milestone in this industry. It was the first moment it really hit me. I took on the role of CEO and I was like ‘Wow!’ ”