15 MAY 2018:  It’s not every day I stay in hotels owned by someone knighted by the Queen, have artwork created by high school students adorning the walls and guests rooms, have dedicated hypoallergenic hotel rooms or even a 13th floor.   Ottawa’s Four-Diamond, 276-room Brookstreet Hotel checks off all of these boxes and more.  It strives to serve not only its guests but the community as well in many different ways from supporting many charitable causes to hiring locals.  A hotel supporting the community is always welcome but not always the norm.

Recently there have been stories from destinations like Venice, Iceland, Barcelona and others where there is a backlash from locals against too many tourists. It’s not easy for us in the tourism industry to hear but many have valid concerns.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

It’s refreshing when travel industry suppliers give back to the community through innovative and constructive ways whether it involves using locals in the hotel’s cultural, entertainment or soft adventure activities, promoting area restaurants and markets, or being cognizant of its environmental impact on the community by developing waste management programmes to minimize its environmental impact.

I’ve been travelling to Ottawa for many years for business and leisure but have always stayed at downtown hotels near Parliament Hill or the bustling Byward Market.

On a recent visit I changed it up completely and stayed at the Brookstreet Hotel, located in North America’s second largest high-tech neighbourhood, Kanata. It’s too far to walk to downtown but it’s only a short 15-20 minute drive to Parliament Hill or even less to the trendy Hintonburg and Wellington West neighbourhoods where gastro pubs, one-of-a-kind boutiques and eclectic restaurants flourish.

BROOKSTREET’S ROYAL CONNECTION

Brookstreet is not just a hotel but a bedrock of the community. A lot has to do with its business tycoon and philanthropist owner Sir Terry Matthews. Born and bred in Newport, Wales this billionaire Welshman has lived in Ottawa for decades and has owned numerous companies, many in the high tech industry.

Matthews was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001 and in 2017 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his tech industry achievements and contributions to community development and charitable causes.

He is also the proud owner of the famous and historic Celtic Manor located in his hometown of Newport. Brookstreet Hotel, named after the street he lived on in Newport, is the biggest hotel in the area and a convention hotspot. It is also a popular choice for weddings and large scale industry and community events.

HITTING THE RIGHT NOTES

If you go to most hotels they may have live music playing on the weekend but Matthews insisted there be entertainment every night. The hotel’s Options Jazz Lounge delivers toe-tappin’ music every night. When I visited, both young and old with women wearing everything from glittering rhinestone cocktail dresses to more casual attire were enjoying the sweet sounds of a local jazz band.

The one advantage a suburban hotel has over a downtown property is space – and lots of it. Brookstreet is not just a hotel. It has a modern tech-laden conference centre, a championship 18-hole golf course, a 9-hole course plus miniature golf. A pond circling the hotel which is used for skating in the winter in addition to the salt-water outdoor and indoor pool complex. The award-winning Perspectives restaurant features local and international cuisine. Free bike rentals and an Au Naturale Spa to soothe all your aches and pains round out some of the leisure pursuits available.

MASSAGE ENVY

My partner Sarah and I indulged in joint pampering with a couple’s massage. I’ll be honest - when it comes to getting a massage it’s all about me! Sarah you’re on your own. Sarah seemed quite content though with the skilled hands of her therapist Nick looking absolutely relaxed and radiant after the massage.

My therapist, Joanne, had the Herculean task of unravelling the heap of knots making permanent residence in my back and shoulders. It was a welcome change from most therapists who go through the motions of the regular 60-minute massage routine. Joanne wasn’t going to let those painful knots and blockages linger in my body without a fight. She used her strength and experience to dig in deep using a combo of massage and stretching techniques. A sleep inducing relaxing massage it wasn’t – but a deep tissue massage to wrestle away those stubborn knots was what this body needed more.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSIONS

Strolling around this hotel is akin to going through an art gallery with poignant, vibrant paintings and tasteful charcoal nude sketches commanding your attention. The art seamlessly blends with the hotel’s bold colours and wood accents motif.

Who created these wonderful pieces of art? Students from Ottawa’s Canterbury High School – a school recognized as one of the best School for the Arts in Canada. It was a risky move by Matthews to display art by high school students in a luxury hotel. How many hoteliers would do that?

The student’s art is featured all over the hotel including in every guest room. For me it instilled such a positive impression – and yes there were some impressionist style paintings too! It reverts back to developing creative ways of engaging with the local community.

BEING SENSITIVE

What else is impressive? Brookstreet’s “Breathe Easy” hypoallergenic guest rooms. Found on non-smoking, no-pets allowed floors with nut-free in-room snack offerings and advanced air purification system. Housekeeping uses 100 percent green cleaning products and a designated vacuum with a Hepa Filter. Pillows, linens and mattresses are all hypoallergenic and bathroom amenities are scent-free with allergen-free natural formulas. Best of all these rooms are available at no extra charge.

Hockey fans will love the fact Brookstreet is the host hotel for the Ottawa Senators and many NHL hockey teams as the Canadian Tire Centre where they play is only a few minutes away. The hotel is also close to golf courses (including their own course,The Marshes), the Diefenbunker Museum in Carp, numerous cycling and walking trails and historic towns like Carleton Place and Almonte.

Brookstreet raises the bar in servicing its guests and the surrounding community. It’s a great example what hotels can and should be.

Brookstreet Hotel: https://www.brookstreethotel.com/

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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