Kenora’s evolution into a prime northwestern Ontario tourist and resort community means area hotels are raising their game with new renovations, rebranding and by introducing modern amenities.
One of the community’s iconic waterfront landmarks is the Best Western Lakeside Inn and Conference Centre, a hard-to-miss postcard property.
The 11-storey circular hotel is within walking distance of the city’s historic downtown and within steps of the Kenora Recreation Centre, where plans are afoot to create a twin-pad sports-plex and conference venue.
“We’ve set ourselves as a premier property in Kenora,” said duty manager Mark Duggan, who’s had an affiliation with the hotel for more than 15 years. “We’re really the only property that sits on the lake.”
The Best Western is a full-service hotel with a dining room, lounge and five meeting-conference rooms, the largest being able to accommodate 250.
The property is in the midst of extensive top-to-bottom renovations with upgrades being done on every floor, from the 94 guest rooms to the front desk.
Duggan estimates a half-million dollars has been spent to date with a million dollars to go.
In early July, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling renovations were finished on two floors and in 28 rooms with new carpets, curtains, bed linens and furniture.
Bathroom tubs were removed and shower units installed. Forty-two inch flat-screen TVs are standard for every room.
Even the conference rooms, which have hosted everything from Rotary functions to prime minister’s visits, are undergoing a facelift. The front lobby has been redone with a rock feature area behind the reception desk and the hotel’s façade and signage are being enhanced to increase its curb appeal.
The hotel positions itself as a corporate hotel during the weekdays and a sports hotel during the weekends and winter, especially with many tournaments staged at the rec centre.
One of the Best Western’s most striking features is its ninth-floor restaurant, offering panoramic views of Lake of the Woods. “Our theme is the only thing we overlook is the lake, and that’s built into our staff,” said Duggan. “We’re investing a lot of effort and time into guest services.”
In nearby Keewatin, local entrepreneur Taras Manzie is rebranding his 12-unit Southview Inn & Bistro into the Timberline Urban Lodge.
“We were always sort of a boutique-style and we’ve transitioned even further into creating more of a high-end service (hotel) at a reasonable price,” with a standard rate of $119 a night.
Manzie bought the lakeside resort property in 2002, demolished some of the seasonal cabins and built an eight-unit timber-framed building with a bistro and 20-seat patio. Over the years, he’s enlarged the dining room to 44 seats, added an 18-seat lounge and widened the patio to accommodate 100.
The open and multi-purpose dining room can be converted into meeting and banquet space for groups of 35.
Canoe and kayak rentals are available on-site and some lakeside landscaping is being done to replace a concrete courtyard with wooden decks to appear like a connection of docks.
Manzie also runs a catering business out of the inn and handles functions both on-and off-site for groups as large as 225 people. As primary owner of the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, he is licensed to provide draft beer for special events.
His future plans include establishing a distillery on-site with plans to be operating by next year. “Whiskey Island Distilleries will create a unique experience for people to book a weekend, get a tasting and a tour of the distillery.”
Across town, and under new ownership, is the 43-room Travelodge and that’s meant the installation of new carpets, bedding, and bathroom tiles throughout the hotel this past spring, as well as a fresh coat of paint.
“We’ve completely redone our lounge, bar, and added modern windows,” said manager Teresa Gallik, who is chair of the Kenora Hospitality Alliance. “It’s the first time it was ever redone from the original (furnishings).”
Renovations have been underway for two years and more than a half-million dollars has been spent. Work will now shift to the outside where a new façade will be added.
The hotel has two meeting rooms that can accommodate between 30 and 90 people for conferences, workshops and weddings.