Soane named new GM at Nita Lake Lodge

Former Fairmont Chateau head determined to make Creekside boutique hotel a success

A new general manager has taken over the helm of Nita Lake Lodge. Roger Soane, the current chair of the Tourism Whistler board and former GM of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, has replaced Ram Tumuluri as of Feb. 1.

The change marks the fourth management structure in place at the 77-unit property since it opened in January 2008.

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Tumuluri had been part of an ownership group that came on in March 2010. When a new group of majority owners purchased the Nita Lake Lodge in April of last year, the services of Tumuluri's company T&V Hospitality were retained to manage the lodge.

But when Tumuluri declared bankruptcy in December, the new owners opted for a more hands-on approach and formed their own management company called NLL Management Ltd. They brought Soane on board as the new GM.

The luxury lakeside boutique hotel in Creekside has been beset with financial difficulties since it opened four years ago, but Soane said that's all in the past.

"I believe that the structure that is in place today is a solid foundation for the future and has the financial backing to take this property forward in the future," Soane told The Question on Monday (Feb. 6). "And I believe that what's happened in the past is behind us."

Soane resigned from the Fairmont last May, citing lack of support by higher management as the main reason for leaving.

"I wasn't sure if there was going to be anything that would make me excited enough to get out of bed, but the Nita Lake is certainly that," he said this week.

The Nita Lake Lodge made him an offer he couldn't refuse, he added.

"We're very happy - our goal was to stay in Whistler," said Soane, who relocated his wife and three children to Whistler in 2008 after accepting the GM position with the Fairmont. He spent 15 years with the Fairmont chain in various locations.

The challenge that Nita Lake Lodge presents, said Soane, is not to create a new vision but to execute the original one.

"I keep on hearing about it being the best-kept secret," said Soane. "Well, as a business you don't want to be the best kept secret, you want to be the most successful."

Soane's goal is to see Nita Lake Lodge rated as one of the top boutique hotels in Canada. That it is a smaller property without a big brand name driving its popularity is, in his opinion, outweighed by its boutique feel, fantastic guest rooms, unique lakeside location and appeal to visitors already familiar with Whistler who want to avoid the hustle and crowds in the Village.

"I think the trick for Nita Lake Lodge is to find the niche market and get the word out," he said. "It's a spectacular property."

According to Soane, marketing to the already-established boutique culture that has a strong following in Seattle and down the Pacific coastline to San Francisco is key to the lodge's success.

"And to really try and form an alliance with some of those boutique properties because when you're an individual, it's very hard to market yourself against some of the larger chains," he said. "But if we can cross market some properties that are in Seattle or on Vancouver Island or in Vancouver, then it's beneficial for both of us."

Nita Lake Lodge's smaller size also means Soane has fewer colleagues to contend with, which allows him to get to know the personalities of his staff and have more of an operational, rather than administrative, role.

"It's being a hotelier and not a business manager," he said. "It's what drove me into the business in the first place - I like that interaction."

Soane said he also wants to improve the hotel's local reputation.

"The one thing I want to do as the new GM is embrace the local community," said Soane. "It's (Nita Lake) had nothing but negative press and coming in I want to turn that around."

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