The B.C. Hotel Association has handed its biggest award to the larger-than-life managing director of the Inn at Laurel Point.
Ian Powell, who has been at the Inn for 13 years and in the hotel industry for more than 40, has been named the association’s hotelier of the year.
Described by anyone who ever crossed his path, or incurred his wrath, as loud, funny, gregarious, charming and a man that definitely knew his own mind, Powell has left an indelible impression on an industry that has often leaned on him for direction.
“Mr. Powell's hallmark laugh can regularly be heard echoing throughout our offices," said Judy Elder, Powell’s long time executive assistant. “We have so enjoyed his leadership style and not to mention his hospitality and life experience which guides us all daily.”
The award comes at a significant time for Powell, who has about 18 months left before he intends to retire. He admits it’s the kind of award that spurred him to reflect on his career.
“There is a great deal of satisfaction to have what you’ve done for a number of years validated by your peers around the province,” he said in an interview.
The award recognizes an individual displaying the management, leadership and communication skills at the highest levels of excellence along with a commitment to employees, community and the industry at large.
Powell said he’s especially proud of his work at the Laurel Point, where he got the chance to put into practice all the things he wanted to do but couldn’t when he worked for large corporations such as Fairmont.
Powell said he always thought people would respond to those initiatives, and at the Laurel Point he saw it had an impact.
But his impact went well beyond the hotel.
The 63-year-old Powell, who won a Lifetime Achievement Award from Tourism Victoria in 2015, made a mark in his career with his unbridled energy and passion for the industry, and especially the people in it.
He was a founding member and chairman of GO2, a human resources organization for the tourism industry in B.C. “I really look back with pride on that — seeing the work it’s done to make things better for people who work in this industry,” he said.
He’s also fiercely proud of the Laurel Point operation and the team that runs it on a day-to-day basis.
“They are so fired up, it’s scary,” he said.
Powell, who is an ordained Anglican priest at Christ Church Cathedral, moved to Canada in 1978 from the United Kingdom.
He joined the Canadian Pacific Hotel group and eventually became general manager of the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary, the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Victoria’s Fairmont Empress and the Fairmont Princess in Bermuda.
Powell’s last major project will be a $10-million renovation of the Inn at Laurel Point, the hotel acquired by Paul and Artie Arsens in 1980 and expanded in 1989.
The hotel renovation, which will focus on the entrance, lobby and restaurant area, will coincide with a massive remediation of an area around the hotel grounds which should be completed by the summer.