23 FEB 2011: I’ve had to stay in one. You’ve probably had to stay in one. And your clients have probably had to stay in one. I’m talking here about airport hotels. Those ‘cookie cutter’ properties that are nearly always ‘ho-hum’. They so often have ‘ho-hum’ facilities and ‘ho-hum’ chefs. They are often noisy and frequently have dismal views over ugly airport approach roads.
So it wasn’t with a great deal of enthusiasm that I accepted an invitation from my colleagues at the Starwood Hotels group to attend a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Toronto’s own airport hotel – the Sheraton Gateway. I have to admit that as I live in Toronto I have never stayed at the Gateway, but my colleagues are lovely people, it’s always great to see them, and … well … a party is a party! So off I set.
Well, was I surprised. The Sheraton Gateway is truly an inviting property, airport or no airport. And it is not only celebrating its 20th anniversary, it is primarily celebrating a renovation, and a fine renovation it is too. But before I tell of the changes, let’s backtrack and look at the constants.
The Sheraton Gateway is the only hotel located right within Pearson International Airport. The property offers direct indoor access from and to Terminal 3 and convenient access from and to Terminal 1. Guests can check-in and print their boarding passes from the comfort of the lobby. Of course, none of that has changed. And while guests cannot be offered a sea view, they can be offered a wide expansive view over the runways where twinkling lights do manage to look rather romantic at night.
But let’s face it, nobody stays there for the view. People stay there because they must make a connection at Pearson … arriving one day with a flight the next. People also stay there because they live a good distance from the airport and have an early flight. People also stay there in order to hold meetings; colleagues can converge there from other destinations, can avoid the trip to a downtown property and can be on their way efficiently when their meeting is over.
Which brings us to the renovation, a project with a three million dollar price tag (and part of Sheraton’s six billion property enhancement of its global portfolio).
First things first: the lobby. It’s warm and inviting, with its subdued colours a welcome antidote to the electronic glare of the airport terminal itself. But it has a new high-tech corner – the Link@Sheraton experience with Microsoft – which is being installed in all Sheraton property lobbies. This space is part relaxing lounge, part informal meeting spaces complete with computers, a social hub where guests can meet face-to-face or across their screens (or engage in a combination of both).
For larger, more formal meetings, the hotel has a new look for all its meeting spaces: modern, stylish and ‘tech forward’, yet with that always-welcome natural light.
No meetings to attend? Just a lay-over to try and enjoy? I think everyone will enjoy it, with up-dated rooms, good sound-proofing and the hotel’s famous ‘heavenly beds’. But before bedtime, there’s plenty to enjoy. The Gateway has completely renovated its fitness facilities; there’s a bright swimming pool and esthetic services. Guests can work-out, take a dip (so good before or after a flight) and then spruce up with a little personal grooming.
Feeling good, one must now eat. And if the food stations offered at the recent party are anything to go by, Executive Chef Bill Jewer, is ready to make the property proud with locally-sourced foods transformed into dishes inspired from around the world.
Party-goers met over some of Chef’s delicious offerings and agreed how inviting this property is.
Mingling with their guests – and later giving welcome speeches – were general manager Joumana Ghandour and director of sales and marketing Sibylle Jenny. Both women are young, both are dynamic and both appeared proud of their property and dedicated to their guests.
No, there’s nothing ‘ho-hum’ about the Sheraton Gateway.