Nothing in the travel industry at this time is certain.
As bookings evaporated, travel restrictions were imposed and tourism took a dip in the presence Covid-19 Pandemic, hotels and resorts are faced with a lot of struggle.
However, in these uncertain times good leadership is more important than ever. In Nita Lake Lodge, a stunning mountain slope retreat in Whistler, British Columbia, that the leadership team now includes other dynamic women, Carly Scholz.
She became the youngest woman to take on the role of General Manager and joined a strong women’s team including new Assistant General Manager Hannah Edwards, and Sarah Werkhoven who took over the leadership of The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge.
A boutique hotel located on a tranquil glacier lake, successfully exudes rustic charm and modern style, through accommodation, cafes, restaurants and spas.
We talked with Scholz about leading during difficult times.
How do you start hospitality?
Carly Scholz: I began my career at Nita Lake Lodge, shortly after graduating from Queen’s University with a degree in sociology, I planned to go to law school. After taking a break from school, and working for a bank for several years, I had the opportunity to come to Whistler to temporarily work at Nita Lake Lodge.
I work in all departments from Housekeeping to the Front Office to Sales and Revenue Management and my plan to work here only temporarily shifts to my career. Nita Lake Lodge is a family-run business and as part of a family, I fell in love with the lodge and the whole team.
Needless to say, I did not go to Law School – but there is always a future! After a number of years as Revenue Manager, I was appointed Hotel Manager to work with former Nita Lake Lodge General Manager, Theresa Lambert. I worked closely with Theresa for about a year in preparation for my transition to become the General Manager of Nita Lake Lodge.
Tell us about Theresa Lambert’s influence and examples of women’s leadership?
Carly Scholz: Theresa has been the General Manager of Nita Lake Lodge for 6 years and has now turned to full time focus as a certified Health and Fitness Trainer. Theresa’s guidance and influence have supported me to be the leader I am today. Regarding encouraging women’s leadership, I think that Nita Owner also played an important role in advocating for this.
Highly competent and highly motivated people are promoted and encouraged to grow in our company, regardless of their gender, race, and / or age. Not only are many departments in our organization led by women, there are also several senior leaders under the age of 40.
Often, the Hospitality and Tourism Industry has a stigma that is felt around it; leaders work endless hours with a “boys club” mentality and strict policies that usually don’t change over time. With today’s society developing at such a fast pace, having young leaders and women who are at the forefront and influence our business, of course brings a different and refreshing perspective to our Management Team.
This truly distinguishes our growth and mindset from the traditional ways the Hotel and Pondok operates and enables us to continue to be at the forefront of dynamic business leadership.
What are the benefits and challenges of being the youngest woman in this position?
Carly Scholz: My age is certainly surprising to some, especially given the fact that the majority of Whistler hotel general managers are men over 40 years old.
Imposter Syndrome is something that I know a lot about other young leaders, especially women, who can relate. I often have to remind myself that I am working hard to develop the skills needed to lead this hotel and I know that I am in the right place.
How does health shape Lake Nita as a brand?
Carly Scholz: Health has become an all-encompassing term in that it can mean different things to different people. The essence of the Nita Lake Lodge brand as a whole is ‘Genuine Welfare’ and our aim is to make health truly be in the eyes of the beholder.
Our essence of ‘True Welfare’ speaks to Nita Lake Lodge’s natural diversity, the depth of the place, its people and culture, and underlines the authenticity of the services and experiences we offer.
‘Authentic’ represents Nita Lake Lodge’s unique hospitality, products and services, and this shows our desire to always give our guests a truly authentic Whistler experience. ‘Prosperity’ is built on that authenticity and reflects the hospitality we offer. This is a holistic, mind-body-soul expression of what we do, and what we mean to our guests.
The ‘True Welfare’ found at Nita Lake Lodge is not about moving away from reality, it is about getting back into reality that is entirely satisfying. This is not about the scale of experience but its depth.
A place where you can put yourself in what is real and meaningful to you in everything. “True Welfare” can be found in rooms that feel like home, where luxury appointments create true comfort, satisfaction and hospitality. ‘True Welfare’ can be experienced on the lakeside terrace where you can enjoy more than just the atmosphere, but also refill your soul with views, satisfy your mind with conversation, and nourish your senses with a delicious menu.
What part does health play in your own life?
Carly Scholz: I love being in Whistler and having the ability to get to mountains and lakes so quickly and easily. Nature is a big part of my personal definition of health. Being surrounded by family and friends, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also important to me.
What specific challenges does the COVID-19 pandemic pose for you as a manager and Lake Nita as a resort?
Carly Scholz: COVID-19 has undoubtedly been the most challenging situation I have faced in my career. For the tourism industry in particular, the impact is quite devastating. With our mountains and restaurants, shops and spas all closed and with the health and safety of guests, staff and communities our number one priority, we made the very difficult decision to postpone operations from Friday 20 March to the end of April 2020.
This decision forced us to lay off many staff members, so that most seasonal workers had no choice but to leave earlier than expected. This is a sad time and really weighs on my conscience as a business leader. However, there is no road map for a pandemic like this, and I find little consolation in the fact that other hotel General Managers, with 30 or more years of experience, have also been very challenged and confused how to successfully navigate this unprecedented problem.
What I do know is that we are a formidable group and while we no doubt have to adjust our plans and spin our marketing efforts, we will get through this and we will return.
I look forward to the day when we can welcome our guests back to the pure beauty and tranquility of Nita Lake Lodge.
What is the most important aspect of the guest experience?
Carly Scholz: Beyond the promise of service and the expectations of our guests is a major aspect of the Nita Lake Lodge guest experience. As a boutique, luxury hotel, located on a glacier lake and surrounded by the Whistler mountains, we know that our guests choose Nita Lake Lodge for the true Whistler experience and our team is proud to say that.
How can the resort soothe the fears of travelers during this time?
Carly Scholz: We continue to monitor suggestions from Canadian Government, The World Health Organization, and Destination Canada and the Canadian Tourism Industry Association and follow in their footsteps. While we are at the peak of COVID-19 at this time, it is important for Nita Lake Lodge, as a tourism business, to support and echo the sentiment of “stay at home” and hinder any travel for the future. Communicating the importance of health and well-being to our guests and team members will be very important after the travel ban is lifted and people want to plan a vacation.
Nita Lake Lodge is a smaller property and is well located away from the hustle and bustle of the village of Whistler, so I think that our “hidden gem” location will help alleviate some of the concerns of our future guests.
What is your best travel memory?
Carly Scholz: I must say South Africa! I have a very large family (9 brothers and sisters), and we all went to South Africa 12 years ago, and it was the best experience I ever had. From safaris, food, to the extraordinary hospitality we experienced, I will classify it as the best travel memories.
Beautiful place, amazing experience, surrounded by people I love the most.
What is your packaging style?
Carly Scholz: I like to think that my packaging style is very similar to Russian babushka dolls because I use many separate bags in my suitcase, and sometimes a mini bag in the bag (cube packing style). This helps keep things organized!
I also pack everything in the sun in my bag, just in case my bag is lost – I’m always paranoid about that!
What must-have items do you pack for your trip?
Carly Scholz: My laptop, notebook, my skin care products and noise canceling headphones – I wouldn’t travel without them.
What do you want to do in Whistler in summer and winter?
Carly Scholz: I like to go camping in the summer and ride my bike along the valley paths, go to various Whistler lakes with friends.
In winter, I like snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and walking on frozen Lake Nita!
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