A Cranbrook hotel continues to make ripples in a very large pond.
Elizabeth Lake Lodge, operated by Rachel and George Freitag, has steadily earned accolades for its comfortable beds and unique room features, its bucolic setting by a wildlife sanctuary, and especially for its customer service.
This week, the Elizabeth Lake Lodge learned it had been awarded first place for customer service in Canada — out of some 12,000 properties under consideration by TripAdvisor Inc.
TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site, where hotel guests can rank their stay and write reviews of the accommodation. Each year, TripAdvisor looks at the hotels ranked in the top 25 positions in five categories: luxury hotels, family hotels, resorts, best bargains, and exceptional service.
This is not the first award Elizabeth Lake Lodge has won in the service category, but as its reputation grows its placing in the category continues to rise.
George Freitag was quick to praise his staff as essential to the recognition.
“They are so awesome at interacting with the guests and a big part of our success. And I’m not just saying that, as we really do rely on them in the course of the day. Our 12 housekeepers field calls, cover the desk and as we escort every guest to the room they are getting pulled away to provide that service as well.”
George and Rachel purchased the former Ponderosa Motel in September, 2004, and have since completely transformed the motel and mini-golf course into what it is today.
The original motel was demolished and the first phase of the lodge built in 2006 and early 2007, with a grand opening in June, 2007. The second phase was completed in 2011. Phase 3 will open in April, of this year.
Along the way the mini-golf course was completely refurbished, and artist Cristine Macdonald, who works under the name CD Mac, has painted numerous murals on the walls of the lodge. Cristine continues to work every summer on adding to the art.
George has a hospitality background, working for the Pan Pacific and Ritz Carlton hotels in Vancouver, and later in a training position for Ritz Carlton worldwide.
TripAdvisor Inc. manages and operates websites under 23 other travel media brands, making up the largest travel community in the world, All told, this online reach encompasses 350 million unique monthly visitors, and more than 290 million reviews and opinions covering more than 5.3 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions. The sites operate in 47 countries worldwide.
“In some ways it is slightly unsettling what a huge impact TripAdvisor has on our industry,” Freitag wrote in an email to the Townsman. “Unlike the restaurant industry, no other review site has any market share. So you just get the one venue and one chance for you to make a lasting impression.
“On the positive side, our property has the opportunity to be compared to some much more expensive and beautiful hotels. As incredible a list of properties that we have been lumped in with, I have no illusions that we will never compete with them in grandeur and amenities. However we will continue to focus on the little things that set us apart.”
TripAdvisor abounds with posted reviews — from visitors from the Kootenays, around British Columbia and from abroad — praising the hotel.
“Canadians especially are more likely to venture into a non-flagged property,” Freitag wrote. “However, they like the assurance of a review site that they are not going to run into any unexpected surprises. No matter what the size of us independent properties, as long as we exceed expectations we will be on the right track.”