The giant yellow slide and impressive craftsmanship of the cedar awning are both among the fine finishings of the Microtel Inn & Suites at Oyster Bay, the mid-Island’s newest accommodation that breaks MasterBUILT’s hotel mold in the spirit of reconciliation.
In fact the ‘firsts’ for the 81-room accommodation run the gamut, including everything from the first predominately tourist hotel or the chain, first airport hotel, first hotel to incorporate kitchen suites, first to incorporate red on the exterior as well as the magnificent entryway that was fabricated right here on Vancouver Island.
“It’s also the first hotel, even though we’ve had some other First Nations partnerships, where we’ve celebrated the indigenous culture through the art and photography that are present within the hotel and breakfast area,” said MasterBUILT Hotels’ president Eric Watson at a recent grand opening celebration.
Even a blanket sprawled across the bed in each room bares an embroidered blue and white canoe that forms part of the Stz’uminus First Nation logo.
Oyster Bay is Wyndham’s 16th Microtel Inn & Suites in Canada to which MasterBUILT Hotels holds the Canadian territorial development rights, and it joins a chain of 300 locations spanning from Argentina, to Mexico, the Philippines and the U.S.
The three-storey Microtel is also a major anchor for the 18.5 acres of commercial development straddling the Trans-Canada Highway and adds to the already existing gas stations, restaurants and Ladysmith & District Credit Union branch.
Stz’uminus Chief John Elliott said the vision for the area wouldn’t have been possible without support from the community and its elders.
“We have a Microtel and you see around us that we’re building this area to really give Stz’uminus First Nation an opportunity. It really is our vision to work with our neighbours and create an economy here and create opportunities for everyone,” he said.
“It’s about more than creating jobs, it’s about joining up together to make sure we’re educating people to be in those senior positions so we’re running these buildings. I think that’s what big projects like this do, it just opens up so many different doors and we’re excited to be part of it.”
Coast Salish Development Group played a major role in the building of the new hotel and continues under CEO Ray Gauthier to make Oyster Bay an investment opportunity for economic development in the region.
“It’s so much more than creating revenue,” Elliott added.
“I think that’s what really needs to be done, sitting at the table and building those opportunities and building what we think is right for the whole area, not just for Stz’uminus.”
Since opening in May 10, the Microtel Inn & Suites has capitalized on an obvious need for accommodation in the Ladysmith and surrounding area.
It was sold out for BC Summer Games, the B.C. Elders Gathering in Cowichan, and the crew for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie are staying there in September during filming.
Oyster Bay Microtel is also one of the host accommodations for the 114th Canadian Men’s Amateur Golf Championships co-hosted by Duncan Meadows Golf Course and Pheasant Glen Golf Resort.
When the Malahat shut down recently due to an accident, the hotel received over 50 bookings almost instantly from motorists who were left stranded. Bookings for family reunions have also been popular this summer.
Oyster Bay Microtel general manager Peter Watts said the water slide, 55,000 gallon pool and PlayStation 4 in the lobby are a dream for both children and parents alike.
“We had a family in here and they pulled in (off the highway) because we have a water slide – they were going to drive to Duncan to book a room,” he said. “The efficiency of the new suites as well…and not too many hotels around here have a large meeting room.”
The meeting room named after the Nanaimo Airport can accommodate upwards of 70 people and has a 75 inch television screen perfect for PowerPoint presentations as well as a wall of windows looking out into the forest.
Modern, bright and punctuated with beautiful photography, there are three accessible rooms, standard double queens, and over two dozen suites that are either single or double queens with a pullout couch.
Rates range from about $139 to $189 depending on season.
Other amenities include a fitness centre and business centre, as well as free Wi-Fi throughout.
The hotel is also pet-friendly making it perfect for the ‘whole’ family and be sure to watch for the cookies at the front desk when checking in.
On Monday through Thursday a complimentary evening snack, such as a soup and bread, is served to guests.
“Warm, friendly environment,” Watts said, explaining the feel he’s striving to achieve. “Everything we do here is about the guest. Making sure they feel happy, making sure they feel warm and welcome.”
Going forward the Microtel will look to form partnerships with other businesses on opportunities such as corporate retreats and Watts sees potential in working with local marinas to offer travellers a stay off the boat for a night or two.
“I think it’s a catalyst for the town to grow even further. The fact that you have a hotel here for meetings, for rendez-vous, I think it’s really quite powerful for this area,” Watts said.
Directly outside the hotel entrance is a tree planted by MasterBUILT honouring the partnership with Stz’uminus First Nation and future growth.
“I know that there will be many more firsts to come,” said Watson in presenting a plaque to Chief Elliott that was stand in front of the tree.
“Like anything starting out, what ultimately comes looks a lot different but our partnership is going to grow and continue to strengthen and this is really like a tree for decades to come and the long term relationship between ourselves and your community.”