The Big Idea: Filling guest experience with fun (and a dash of fairy dust)

Dreamy down filled duvets, five star service and sublime cuisine are just a few trademarks that attract discerning travellers, but what does it take to hit a higher peak in hospitality? How do you etch a lasting impression? For the Fairmont Chateau Whistler team, the magic happens when they make unforgettable moments.

This is where Yasmin Haufschild, director of special events and product development comes in. Part of the Fairmont family for 17 years, this host with the most crafts guest experiences with an emotional connection, incorporating elements that often touched us as children into activities for all ages.

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“I love my job,” Haufschild said. “It’s like I have a magic wand sprinkling fairy dust.”

Her goal is clear — to create inspired programming that makes memories and brings guests back year after year.

Engage, enthrall and enchant

In Haufschild’s eyes it’s important to recognize that guests may have a mountain of interests outside sport and leisure — she pays close attention to arts and culture and keeps her annual event calendar fluid because the more she interacts with guests the more she sees different passions at play.

“I look closely at guests and ask myself what would drive them. I get to learn what is interesting to different groups and it may not be the typical interest you expect,” she said.

She studies guest demographics and integrates international traditions like the Cascarone workshop creating confetti-filled eggs popular with Spanish and Mexican Easter celebrations and an Enchanted Garden of Easter egg trees and fairies inspired by German holiday traditions.

When creating captivating programming she asks herself, “Will this get people talking and is this worthy of a photograph?”

Boosting numbers in shoulder season

In spring and fall the hotel gets creative to boost heads in beds over some traditionally sleepy weeks.

“I like the challenges of problem solving. We know shoulder season in November and after Easter have always been a problem, but there’s always a different way to look at things,” said Haufschild, who scours the internet to find unique groups to attract in the off season like dancers, crafters, bridge groups, foodies and other folks not necessarily driven by outdoor recreation.

“The slowest times of year are my busiest times. This is when I build new customers,” she said.

Finding a different kind of customer often entails building an experience around an opportunity that already exists. Holiday festivities entice Turkey Sale day traffic to stay for the whole weekend and foodie festivities are cooked up around Cornucopia.

One of Haufschild’s biggest successes came from leveraging seniors weekday ferry discounts to attract this growing market. The three-night travel package now offers departures every spring and fall from Vancouver and Victoria. It’s an ideal way for those aged 60-plus to have an unforgettable Whistler experience with entertainment that introduces them to local kids, performers and artists, as well as games, gourmet dining and unique presentations.

With 66 per cent of attendees being repeat guests, the program is packed with regulars including five guests who have been on every trip since 2008.

Bellhops and bunny hops

Making memorable stays is a team effort. Staff run party games and the animated executive team are known to wear eccentric costumes and even flex their acting muscles in the popular Liar’s Club Game Show.

An emotional connection ignites when you have staff dressed as a race crew in maintenance overalls leading a zucchini race “show and shine” and rolling up their sleeves to carve a pumpkin or teach someone how to craft a Christmas lantern for Santa.

Having so many talented staff under one roof creates a special experience where the character of the team can shine. Employees are more engaged and guests get a unique experience when they can master mixology with a bartender, get gardening tips from the hotel’s head green thumb or burn off their Thanksgiving feast on a turkey trot with trainers from the fitness centre.

Haufschild on creating unforgettable experiences

“Try to connect with our Whistler visitors on an emotional level by having an open mind and acknowledging their unique passions — from sports and leisure to arts and culture and everything in between.”

Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in their sector.

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