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Going the Distance With Civic Hotel’s Director of Rooms

One look at Jonie Tee, Civic Hotel’s Director of Rooms, as she makes her way to her office, and the stiffness in her legs is obvious. She confesses to having completed a 10-km event the day before, a race she had trained very little for. What drove her to the finish line? She had committed to taking part in a team event running for charity and nothing was going to get in the way of completing it. “I’ve always been the kind of person where, if I care about it and put my mind to it, there’s no stopping me.” It’s an attitude that has taken her a long way on a career path presenting no shortage of challenges and rewards.

Tee is used to long days managing the large team of housekeepers and front desk agents behind the Civic’s growing reputation for excellent service, days that leave little time for jogging. Not surprisingly, service is something she takes incredibly personally. Fortunately, the skills and experience developed through her own extensive travels and a successful career in hospitality have equipped her to help create the current culture of high standards. “Service isn’t something that can be faked. You need to feel pleasure in serving your guests. It’s not something you can train a robot to do. It has to be that you’re genuinely wanting to help this guest have a good experience.”

Born in the Philippines, Tee developed a passion for hotels and hospitality early, while on family trips to exciting locales like Bangkok, Hong Kong, Korea and the United States. “It just made me really happy, checking in to a hotel. So when the time came to choose what I was going to study at university, I knew immediately that I wanted to work in one.” Following graduation from a hotel management program, she headed to Canada where she was able to land a first job as a part-time front desk agent.

Right from the beginning, Tee’s talent shone through. Within a few months of starting work in the industry, the General Manager of the hotel she was working in saw the potential and promoted her to office manager. It was the first of many promotions over the next fifteen years that have seen her take on increasing responsibility in positions across the ranks of sales, management and front of house at various business and luxury hotels in Richmond, Surrey and Vancouver. Prior to starting at the Civic, she served as General Manager of a 77-room hotel.

“What that first boss taught me was that it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you are and your talent. Skills can be learned. If you can find someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty, that’s what will make that person successful.” It’s an approach that has defined her approach when assembling the team of associates that now works with her to optimize guest experience. Demonstrating the courage of her convictions, she has prioritized the traditional values of excellence of service, even where those joining her team might not be the most experienced.

Tee acknowledges that technology is playing a larger role in the hospitality industry, yet professes a belief that personal relationships are still and will always be the cornerstone of an optimal guest experience. “It always goes back to the people. No matter how high-end your marble tabletops are, or how big the room is, if the interactions between the guests and the hotel’s associates aren’t there, then it affects the experience.”

While serving guest needs has had its challenging moments over the years, Tee is adamant that most problems can be prevented through that personal rapport. Yet where problems occur, she is always willing to sit down with guests and offer reasonable alternatives that address most concerns. With the pride and strength that has come to characterize this hospitality professional, she has built her reputation on delivering a guest experience that meets the highest industry standards. “If you have integrity and believe in the product that you have and the service that you’re providing, then you are happy to stand behind those standards.”