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2014 Alto Ambassador – Grant McCurdy

The Alberta Tourism (Alto) Awards Committee has named Grant McCurdy, General Manager the DoubleTree by Hilton in Edmonton, as the 2014 Alto Ambassador. This honour is given each year to an exceptional Albertan who has made an outstanding contribution to the province’s tourism industry.

Grant McCurdy’s family likes to tease him for picking up litter all over Edmonton – at the mall or even at a competitor’s hotel. “I can’t help it,” he laughs. “I don’t just want my own property to be appealing to visitors; I want the whole city to be welcoming.”

That visionary thinking has guided McCurdy for almost four decades as he’s worked for iconic names like Palliser, Delta, Sheraton, Starwood, SilverBirch, Westin and Hilton. As general manger of the Mayfield Inn and Suites in Edmonton, he recently completed a $65 million renovation to convert the property to two Hilton products, a 238-room DoubleTree and 127-room extended stay Home2 Suites.

His biggest reward along the way has been helping people grow in their careers. “I know everyone says that, but for me, it’s very satisfying to have a hand in someone’s success.” A few years ago, he gave one of his restaurant managers a frank evaluation that said she needed better leadership skills. She quit the job, but when he met her again, she was a successful Director of Food Management. “She told me my feedback changed her life. She still has that review, and pulls it out every so often as a reminder.”

McCurdy’s motivational skills became clear for his son James McCurdy, a consumer marketing specialist at Edmonton Tourism, when he began working in 2011. “I expected people in the business would ask if I was his son. But I was totally blown out of the water by how many stories I heard about how Dad had really inspired people,” he says. “To me, the ability to leave such a positive, lasting impression is what the Alto Ambassador is all about.”

The Saskatchewan-born McCurdy had planned to be a geologist until he took a summer job at the Jasper Park Lodge and fell under the spell of Alberta’s tourism industry. “Every day is different. Every person is different and you have to keep each of them happy and coming back. It’s very invigorating.” When he went back to school, he switched his studies to commerce and tourism.

His first job was night manager at Calgary’s Palliser Hotel. One evening, a bus full of soccer players rolled in at midnight, but because of a booking error, there were no rooms. Other hotels were full, too. McCurdy got his staff to move cots into the ballroom, and fill ice buckets with beer. “I got on the bus and told 38 soccer players they were having a big sleepover, with all the beer they could drink. They actually cheered!” It was one of his first lessons in innovative thinking. “There’s always going to be some situation. You just need to figure out what to do.”

At 57, McCurdy continues to run and renovate major hotel projects in Edmonton, and oversees Canada’s most successful dinner theatre. He’s also a very active volunteer.

He served as director of the Edmonton Taxi Commission and sat on the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association board. In 1997, he became president of the Greater Edmonton Visitor & Convention Association (GEVCA) and was instrumental in driving the “One Voice for Tourism” initiative which saw the amalgamation of GEVCA and Edmonton Tourism. “I have always believed in the power in collaboration, and in this province, we continue to prove that we can get more done by working together.”

McCurdy was also one of the founding members of the Edmonton Destination Marketing Fund, which now has the support of about 50 hotels.

In 2001, McCurdy received the Award of Distinction at the You’re Welcome Edmonton Awards. He remains active within the community, serving as vice chair on the Edmonton Destination Marketing Hotels board and chair of the West End hotel marketing group board.

“Grant is more than a great hotelier; he is also a great volunteer,” says Doug McPhee, chair of the 2014 Alto Awards Committee. “Tourism is about community, so our Ambassador needs to be a great community person, and Grant fits the bill on many levels.”

When he’s not working, volunteering or picking up litter, McCurdy spends time with his wife Jennifer, his two children and grandson. He loves skiing, golfing and gardening, and has painted 28 oil landscapes. “I have a full life, personally and professionally, but I still have a lot that I’d like to get done.”

McCurdy is particularly concerned by the changing tourism labour market. “Our employees have much shorter career paths now. We have to adapt to their needs.” In the new Home2 Suites, McCurdy has introduced a training program that gives new employees experience at three different jobs in five years – a much faster rotation than usual. The aim is to keep workers more engaged.

As 2014’s Alto Ambassador, McCurdy hopes to build more appreciation for collaboration. “I’ve always believed that we have to sell Canada first, then Alberta, and then get them to Edmonton. It’s to our benefit to have visitors see all parts of the province,” he says. “We need to think beyond ‘what’s in it for me’ and work together to see the big picture. That’s what I want to help with.”

The Alto Ambassador award, sponsored by the Calgary Airport Authority, will be presented to Grant McCurdy at the Alto Awards gala on October 20, in conjunction with the 14th annual Travel Alberta Industry Conference in Banff, October 19-21, 2014.

Alto Awards in nine other categories will also be presented at the gala.

For more information about the Alto Awards, please visit www.industry.travelalberta.com/alto.

Media contact:
Roberta Macleod – Communications Specialist, Travel Alberta
P: 403-648-1015
roberta.macleod@travelalberta.com

 

 

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