Over a decade ago, when Kimberley Hughes set her sights on becoming a hotel/resort general manager by age 40, she had no idea that her first experience of the position’s responsibilities would be a baptism by fire – literally.
On August 1, 2003, the Delta Sun Peaks Resort had been open barely a year. The GM was out of the country on business, and Hughes — then operations manager — was in charge, when one of a half-dozen nearby forest fires threatened the resort. By the time the sun went down that day, she had supervised the safe evacuation of all 200 guests and her staff down a steep logging road, the only way out after flames closed the main access.
Hughes’ first taste of the hospitality industry was more routine. While travelling after college, she spent time as a server and room attendant at a Greek island resort, a pleasant experience she remembered when she arrived at Whistler in 1991 looking for work. She started as a reservations agent with Powder Resort Properties and over the next eight years won numerous promotions, ending up as director of operations.
Six years ago, she joined Delta as director of rooms at its Whistler Resort and soon moved to the Delta Whistler Village Suites as operations manager. In 2001, she was due to open the Sun Peaks hotel in the same position when it burned to the ground just nine weeks before the first guests were due. After the rebuild, she stayed at Sun Peaks until May last year, when the Four Seasons group asked her to open their new Whistler resort. Now she’s back with Delta doing her dream job.
She plans to stay where she is at least through the Olympics but after that, she isn’t sure. She has had some involvement with industry training and envisions more in future, particularly as a mentor for people new to the industry.
“I always say to them, ‘Don’t worry about the title. Don’t worry about the remuneration in the early positions. Don’t be lured away by a higher paying job or the thought of getting there more quickly, because, ultimately, if you find a company that believes in you and that you believe in, you’ll end up where you want to be.’”