Jim Muir, a 25-year leader in Alberta hotels and tourism, has been named Alberta’s 2016 Alto Ambassador. The honour is given annually to an exceptional Albertan who has made an outstanding contribution to the province’s tourism industry.
Since moving to Alberta in 1991, the Ontario-raised hotelier and entrepreneur has run or opened 12 hotels and resorts and three restaurants across the province, and says the process is never easy.
“Opening a hotel takes the life out of you,” he laughs. “More than once we’ve had to pull rabbits out of hats, but when it’s finally done, the feeling is often quite euphoric.”
Raised in Kitchener, Ont., Jim planned to become an engineer until he took a part-time job at a Holiday Inn when he was 16 years old. Later, sitting in the waiting room of his high school guidance counsellor, he spotted a brochure advertising the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering Management program at Fanshawe College in London, Ont.
“I picked it up and knew right away that was what I wanted,” he says. “I never dreamed that I would operate multiple hotels or get the opportunities that I’ve had here in Alberta.”
After graduating, he spent 12 years with Commonwealth Holiday Inns, working across Canada and gaining experience in every facet of the hotel industry, from housekeeping to the front desk. Muir moved to Alberta in September 1991, settling in the Bow Valley, where the province’s can-do spirit and stunning landscapes impressed him immediately.
“Other than marrying my wife, moving to Alberta is the best decision I ever made,” he says. “The work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit are unlike any other province in Canada.”
In 1996, he founded Summit Resort Management, which became Clique Hotels and Resorts, and has since opened and operated facilities throughout Alberta, including Advantage West Inns & Suites in Fort McMurray, the Acclaim Hotel, Applause Hotel and Hotel Clique in Calgary, and Falcon Crest Lodge, Copperstone Resort, Stoneridge Mountain Resort and Blackstone Mountain Lodge in Canmore. The Canmore properties maintain the top four rankings on Trip Advisor, with the new Calgary hotels quickly rising to the top.
“Jim is a trendsetter for the tourism industry,” says Farra Gillis, Sales & Marketing Manager with Clique Hotels and Resorts. “He closely studies the marketplace and strategically designs, markets and builds properties where they will have the most impact.”
Jim’s hotels are often inspired by travelling to other countries and adapting the innovations he sees to the Alberta market. Hotel Clique and the Applause Hotel are recent examples, with these hotels showcasing theme suites like “Rock and Roll” and “Euro Chic.” His hotels have also been widely recognized for excellence in hospitality, including a 2012 Alto Award for Service Excellence.
“People ask me, ‘Which was your favourite hotel?’ but it’s kind of like picking which is your favourite child. Opening hotels is always a highlight, but the best thing is when you to see the people working for you be successful.”
Under Jim’s guidance, Clique has been named an Employer of Choice and his properties have been nominated for Alberta’s Best Workplaces.
“Jim truly embodies what it means to be an ambassador for the Alberta Tourism Industry,” says Tyler Riopel, Chair of the 2016 Alberta Awards Committee. “He demonstrates an innovative approach through the Clique Hotels & Resorts group, champions collaboration and drives those around him to strive for excellence.”
“To some extent, we’re more of a team industry than a group of individuals,” Jim says. He is a past chairman and a founding member of the Canmore Kananaskis Tourism Board and sat on the Canmore Planning Commission and the Development Appeal Board. He’s been a strong supporter of Rendez-vous Canada and Canada’s West Marketplace, and has expedited numerous sales missions to Europe, the U.S. and China.
“When I first arrived in the Bow Valley, tourism was very seasonal, but it’s come a long way. A big part of that has been Travel Alberta and all of our marketing efforts, but I do think we’re also raising the bar in terms of developing new product.”
True to form, Jim has another hotel on the way, as his company will be managing the new four- Malcolm Hotel set to open in Canmore in December 2017. “It will definitely bring more visitors into Canmore on a year-round basis.”
Jim sees tourism product growing fast in Alberta, which is vital to keeping potential travellers engaged. Global travel competition is stiff, he says, and the industry must constantly strive to provide a better experience.
“We’re going to have our best year ever in our mountain properties. We’re blessed to have this natural beauty, but to continue to be successful we need to continue to ‘raise the bar’ to be competitive in the international marketplace.”
The Alto Ambassador award, sponsored by the Calgary Airport Authority, will be presented to Jim Muir at the Alto Awards gala on October 24, in conjunction with the 16th annual Travel Alberta Industry Conference in Banff, October 23-25, 2016.
Alto Awards in nine other categories will also be presented at the event.