Story by Adrian Brijbassi and Vacay.ca Staff
TORONTO — “OMG.” That was the subject line of Tim Terceira’s email to his staff on October 6, the day the Ritz-Carlton Toronto general manager learned about the coveted five-diamond award his hotel had won.
It’s the first Canadian Automobile Association five-diamond for a Toronto hotel and only the second for Canada. Although those of us who have stayed at the Ritz or enjoyed its restaurants and amenities could say we saw it coming, Terceira was not at all complacent.
“It’s rare to achieve it after six months,” Terceira said, noting that the Ritz opened on February 16 and that the inspectors were coming through very soon afterwards, all but one of them anonymous to him and his staff. “I do know that especially with a new hotel they have a heightened level of concern for consistency and ability to provide the level of engagement and service that is worthy of a five-diamond. Knowing that, I wanted this, but I wasn’t taking it for granted that we would get it.”
Service is the hallmark of the Ritz-Carlton brand and CAA inspectors have said that it’s what has been missing in the city’s hotel scene until now. With the Ritz’s lead, more hotels could be joining the five-diamond club.
Toronto is in the midst of the most remarkable hotel transformation in its history, and a transformation that’s the envy of cities around the world. No less than three world powers are set to debut new hotels in the coming months; the Trump Tower on Bay and Adelaide streets, the Shangri-La at University and Adelaide and the new Four Seasons in Yorkville. Impressive names, and that’s on top of the successful debuts in the past 18 months of both the Thompson Hotel and Le Germain’s branch at Maple Leaf Square.
Five stars are damned hard to come by. For its early 2011 ratings, the CAA only listed the Four Seasons in Whistler, B.C. as a five-diamond winner.
|MORE TORONTO TRAVEL TIPS: WVRST IS BEST ON KING STREET|
When word came that the honour had been bestowed on the new Ritz-Carlton, however, the opportunities for more such awards seemed a little closer. The Ritz has set a level of standard that their top competitors will look to match when they enter the marketplace. The Four Seasons has already announced it will have a Daniel Boulud restaurant when its doors open in 2012.
As Terceira said, “The competition is very good for Toronto. We know that there are some conventions that we were not able to secure because we did not have enough five-diamond properties in the city.”
The Ritz, located in the heart of the Entertainment District on Wellington Street, across from Roy Thomson Hall, features sleek rooms with more amenities than you can shake an espresso machine at. The décor is lovely and it’s home to one of the best patios in the city. The main restaurant, TOCA, is high-end but also has the cheekiness to serve lobster and chips. The wine staff is impressive and the service as a whole is simply outstanding.
Terceira was in charge of putting together the staff, who are genuinely warm, down to earth, cheerful and consistent in their professionalism. He said the five-diamond award provides “a great sense of accomplishment” as well as validation for his team’s efforts. Overseas visitors, particularly the increasingly influential Asian travellers, seek out top-rated hotels because “they trust the brand and know what a five-diamond represents,” said Terceira, who added that the award has sent him “over the moon” with joy.
CAA officials say there are a ton of great hotels in Canada but to get five-diamonds the service has to be sensational, not just very good. There are plenty of places that meet the physical criteria; the Hazelton in Yorkville, Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City, the stunning Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino B.C., and a host of others. But they somehow fall just a little short in service.
“The CAA is honoured to recognize the Ritz-Carlton’s commitment to excellence,” said Nick Parks, president and CEO, CAA South Central Ontario. “Five-diamond establishments consistently deliver a high level of hospitality and comfort to their guests.”
Terceira received word of the achievement while at a Montreal airport. He was celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary with a trip when the email came in from the CAA. After relaying word of the award to his team and his wife and family, he realized the effort wasn’t done.
“We got it,” he said, “now we have to keep it, that’s the fun part. And we will.”