The pressure is on! We have a 6 week opening deadline... and a hotel listed on the various www.expedia.com and www.bookings.com platforms as well as via our own webpage www.yukonspaces.com/dawsonlodge. What we don't have is pictures... so we're not expecting bookings for a little while (that takes the pressure off a little bit).
When we first talked about developing Yukon Spaces, we knew that our first project was in 2 phases, renovation of an existing building and then opening and running a hotel type accommodation offer. We certainly weren't naive about the work involved and have evaluated more hotel business models than I knew existed a year ago. Exploring concepts around automation of the reservation, checking in/out and billing processes, alongside considerations of housekeeping, charging for additional services and providing guests support from a "hands-off" style of hotel management has been interesting. We've been constantly comparing this to the full service hotel model where there is a check-in desk, Staff on site 24/7, turn down services each evening and full room cleans each day. What we've landed on is a model that we think takes the best of all options and integrates a hi-tech but low stress (for the non-tech savvy out there) product in a comfortable mix of contemporary and historic decor in probably the most modern hotel in Dawson right now. We say probably because we know how hard the rest of the accommodation businesses in town work to keep their offer up to date and some of our colleagues in the local industry have been exceptionally helpful and supportive of this little venture and giving us advice about what visitors are looking for.
I wanted to use this blog as a bit of an opportunity to share some of the choices we made and some of the challenges in renovating the building with those choices in mind. Some of the choices we've made are only possible because we will be saving money on not having the 24/7 on site staff. Hopefully people will agree that having higher quality products and spending a little more on these to ensure they are environmentally sustainable is worth the trade-off of not having a member of staff in the building all day and night.
Smart locks: One of the things we were excited to do in Dawson was bring in technology to help make it easier for people to check in and check out at almost any time of the day (because lets face it, Dawson doesn't really conform to a conventional 24 hour clock for so many reasons) and to never have to worry about losing their keys or demagnetising their keycards with their phone (we wanted this because everyone in the team has done both of these things many, many, many times). So, we have chosen to use locks that have a unique code generated by our booking system for every reservation. That means that when someone books a room, they get a unique key code sent to them. That code only works for their room and only for the duration of their stay. But what happens if we have a power outage or the internet goes down? We got it covered, the locks are all battery powered and the codes are sent to the units as they are generated, meaning that we don't need constant internet coverage to ensure they work. Also, in the rare occasion when there might be an electronics malfunction, we do have a physical key as a back-up and someone is always no more than 15 minutes away. We have slightly less smart locks for the exterior doors that balances security with the need to get in out of the cold ASAP.
Climate control (central and in-room): We've all been in those hotel rooms that are too hot or too cold or where the air smells stale. We know the feeling when you walk into a room and have the goldilocks moment, "everything is just right", it's kind of magical. That's what we're aiming for. So we spent an insane number of hours researching different types of mechanical ventilation unit, different models, different types of in-room heating and cooling options and we finally settled on: Central energy recovery ventilation to provide a constant and reliable ambient room temperature and humidity level regardless of what's going on outdoors. The air should be so fresh that even inside, it should feel like the fresh air of Tombstone (without the smoke from forest fires that have plagued our beautiful clean air this summer). We have coupled this with in-room electric baseboard heaters with locally controlled thermostats so that our guests can make to rooms warmer for their own comfort level without making other people feel like they are in a sauna. All of the equipment we selected is low energy usage compared to more traditional models and we have been able to eliminate oil from our energy usage in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We aren't blind to the challenges of mechanical ventilation systems in the far north and our temperature and humidity fluctuations both seasonally and over the course of the day have been key factors in the choices we made. I won't bore everyone with the technicals but we didn't 100% trust the sales people and technical specialists for each company. So, we've also had conversations with other people who've used the various devices in similarly inhospitable environments without problems and pushing them much closer to their technical limits that we will need to. We're a little over engineered but we think it's worth it.
Friendly to cognitive and visual impaired people: When we talked about the aesthetics of the hotel, one of the things that came up in conversation was the need to be able to be as accommodating as possible to an increasing population of older travellers and travellers with cognitive and sensory impairments. More and more people are travelling who have conditions like dementia or who have cognitive and visual problems associated with various brain injuries and conditions. We are on a journey with this one, but some of the simple, low cost things we were able to achieve on opening include some simple contrasting of colours to clearly identify doorways and placement of lighting to ensure that glare on surfaces is minimised. In future work we plan to instal fire alarms that talk to guests (not telling them jokes or asking about their day but telling them what the alarm means) and produces a visual lighting alert to signal danger for hearing impaired people.
Pet friendly: In the team so far we have 3 cats and 2 dogs. We are in a community of pet lovers and it's the kind of place where people want to bring their fur babies to share in the great outdoors. So we have developed 2 pet friendly rooms (we wanted to make every room pet friendly but we are also conscious of people with allergies and the challenges of keeping low allergy rooms when a pet has been in there). We're currently having lots of fun talking about robotic cat litter trays and super comfortable pet beds. Watch this space!
Environmentally friendly products: One of our strongest values as an organisation is striving for environmental responsible behaviours. Everything we do has an impact on our planet and more tangibly our loc al environment. Because of this we are using only cleaning products that are produced from plant sources (i.e. vegan, no animal products, no petrochemicals), 100% biodegradable and safe if they make it into water sources.
Zero waste to landfill: With the same considerations as above, we are striving for zero waste to landfill. This is something we are going to monitor and report on as part of our ongoing performance measurement. Our coffee pods are 100% compostable as is much of our cleaning equipment (cloths etc.) and as part of our housekeeping procedures waste will be sorted, separated and recycled.
We have been getting really excited this week as supplies to start arrive that are less construction and more hotel; towels, bed linens, curtains, desk organisers, cookie containers, tea and coffee caddies. We are starting to see the light at the end of a tunnel and we can't wait to be able to show everyone what we've come up with. We know it won't be perfect but we are excited about working towards providing the best offer for travellers to Dawson City that we can.