More than 250 people attended a weekend gala to mark the 75th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone at the Lord Elgin Hotel, but the Ottawa landmark is planning much more than a party to mark its anniversary.
Prime Minster Wiliam Lyon Mackenzie King (left) and Ottawa Mayor Stanley Lewis at the laying of the cornerstone of the Lord Elgin Hotel on Feb. 27, 1941.
“The hotel is actually, throughout the year, going through a major renovation as well through the summer months, trying to get ready for 2017,” director of sales and marketing Ann Meelker told OBJ in a recent interview.
Ms. Meelker said the renovations – the hotel’s first since 2004 – will include extensive updates to all the rooms and corridors, estimating the tally at $28,000 per room. That puts the total cost of the makeover in the $10-million range.
“We’re excited. We want it ready for the big 150th (anniversary of Confederation next year), so we’re doing it in short order,” she said. “Short-term pain for long-term gain.”
Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and Mayor Stanley Lewis were among the dignitaries who attended the laying of the cornerstone on Feb. 27, 1941. Mr. King was also the first person to sign the guest registry when the hotel opened on July 19 of that year.
“He was really involved from very early on,” Ms. Meelker said.
The Lord Elgin was designed by the same architects who were behind the Chateau Laurier and Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. Unlike those hotels, however, the Lord Elgin, originally run by the Ford Hotel Company, has managed to remain locally owned for most of its existence, Ms. Meelker said.
Its current owners, Gillin Engineering & Construction, also own the Residence Inn on Laurier Avenue and the Hotel Indigo on the corner of Laurier Avenue and Metcalfe Street. Gillin’s other holdings include the Residence Inn in Kingston and an interest in the Westin in Montreal.
While the Residence Inn is part of the Marriott chain and Hotel Indigo is a member of the Intercontinental Hotels Group, the Lord Elgin remains independent.
The industry has seen major consolidations in the last few years, but the Lord Elgin continues to outperform many other hotels in the area, according to Ms. Meelker.
“The Internet really has changed a lot in that realm,” she said. “People now search for travel online. As long as you can play that game well, you can compete, if you have a good product in a sound location.”
She said the hotel has been marketed internationally for several years and has a solid brand. While she wouldn’t reveal its annual revenues, she said the Lord Elgin's average occupancy rate is about 80 per cent and its average room rate is $160. That would put annual revenues at more than $16 million.
Ms. Meelker attributes the hotel’s “fairly high” occupancy rate to its diverse group of customers.
“We have a good strong leisure base, a strong meeting and group base. We have quite a lot of business travel, so we have a good mix and that helps to balance it all out,” she said.
The hotel may host more public events as the anniversary of the opening approaches, she said, adding there will definitely be a celebration for employees.
“A lot of our staff has been here for 10, 20, 30, 40 years,” said Ms. Meelker, who started her career at the Lord Elgin four decades ago with a summer job as a reservation clerk. “They’ve been a big part of the story, so we want to recognize them at that time and make sure we honour that. That’s a huge part of who we are.
“It has a way of getting into your blood,” she said. “It’s a very different kind of hotel.”