After working his way up from bellman to hotel manager in just five years, 29-year-old James Bingham is now the manager of the Coast Sundance Lodge at Sun Peaks Resort.
Armed with a commerce degree from the University of Victoria and a year’s experience at Victoria’s Royal Scot Hotel, Bingham applied as a bellman at the Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel and Marina in 2010.
“I knew a chain would offer more opportunities, and I made it clear in the interview that I wanted to move up,” he recalls.
And so he did, leapfrogging from bellman to marina and duty manager to acting front office manager, before heading to Prince George’s Coast Inn of the North for a two-year stint as the front office supervisor.
In 2013, a brief secondment to Sun Peaks led to Bingham’s first general manager position.
Bingham’s job involves overseeing all aspects of the hotel’s operation, from staffing, housekeeping and maintenance, to reservations, room inventories and long term planning (although not food services as the Coast Sundance doesn’t operate a restaurant). A typical day involves a mix of conference calls, emails, helping out with front desk, meetings with staff and community members and, of course, interacting with guests.
Working at a mountain resort has its unique challenges, he observes. “Staffing can be tricky up here, but we have a good crew of year-round employees now. We are also a strata property and that adds an interesting dynamic.”
Community involvement is also part of the job. Besides regular strata council meetings, Bingham sits on Sun Peaks’ Board of Directors and Tourism Sun Peaks’ marketing committee.
“I like that balance between the limelight and the background, with time on the front line interacting with guests and members of the community, and time in my office developing strategies and maximizing revenue,” he reveals.
His advice to others? “You need to be a people person and be able to learn quickly. Education does help, whether through the commerce program or a specific hospitality program, but a lot of it is attitude. Skills, such as finance and management, can be learned and are transferable between industries.”
“It’s also important to show initiative and to let your supervisor know that you want to take on other tasks and move up. It also helps to be flexible and be willing to relocate, because you never know where the next opportunity is going to be,” he adds.
For Bingham, that next opportunity will, ideally, be a similar position at a larger hotel with catering and restaurants, possibly as general manager or director of operations.
For now, though, he’s enjoying life at Sun Peaks: “It’s good to get the snowboard back in action and, in the summer, I can fit in nine holes after work.”