Dec. 12, 2016, Victoria, BC – Mandy Farmer, president & CEO of Accent Inns, has been recognized as Hotelier of the Year by the Pinnacle Awards, an accolade that recognizes her decades of work within Canada’s tourism industry.
Highlights from Farmer’s career include a commitment to the family-business, innovation through customer promotions and staff programs, rebelling against the ordinary through the creation of the Hotel Zed brand, and support of her local Victoria community and through charities that operate throughout the province.
Running the family business
Farmer took over the role of president and CEO of Accent Inns from her father, Terry, in 2008. However, she would identify as Bike Lover for Accent Inns and Chief Rebel for Hotel Zed on her business cards (not that people even print those anymore). Rather than focusing on how to work around her dad in her leadership role, Farmer instead bent his ear and pulled from his expertise while taking charge of the Accent Inns brand in order to grow and evolve it for today’s guests.
Farmer’s passion for the hospitality industry – and hotels in particular – has been steadfast since she was a young girl. Without provocation from her family, Farmer has worked her way up the hospitality ladder. She has become a role model for other young businesswomen, and several of the company’s senior managers have followed her career path.
Accent Inns was established in Victoria, 1986, and after three successful decades they are a boastful BC hotel chain with five locations; Victoria, Burnaby, Vancouver Airport (Richmond), Kelowna & Kamloops. All of the locations are proud winners of the TripAdvisor “Certificate of Excellence.”
Not one to promote an active and balanced lifestyle to her guests and then only focus on work herself, Farmer strives for a balanced life with family and friends, and seeks out inspiration on her bike.
Innovating for the fun, and function, of it
From the development of the company branding and the accompanying, “different…in a good way,” tagline, Farmer has driven the innovation behind Accent Inns for close to a decade.
Farmer put the Accent Inns ‘Bike Love’ program in motion. She stands by the Accent Inns claim, with good reason and strong evidence, that it is the most bike-friendly hotel chain in Canada. Each property has dedicated space for bike repair, cleaning, and maintenance. Although they don’t encourage cyclists to sleep with their bikes, the properties do have space inside ‘Bike Love’ rooms so that owners can fall asleep staring at their favourite person bike.
Another feature for guests both young and young-at-heart, the rubber duck, was born. Farmer held the belief that everyone would love seeing a rubber duck in the bathroom, even if the first time they would notice is when they sat down. To date, Accent Inns has invested in more than 45 rubber duck styles, including cycling ducks.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Farmer had some fairly drastic changes in mind for an oft-forgotten, easily missed property that the family also owned and operated.
Launching a successful rebellion
What would one do with a limited-service motel property in a hot real estate market? Most would sell it; Farmer reinvented it. In 2014, the Hotel Zed opened its doors in Victoria, BC, sharing an alarmingly bright approach that went well beyond the colour palette. Behind the pops of orange, blue, pink, and green, guests were provided with a modern take on the funkiest vintage style. Pairing vinyl listening stations with free coffee in the lobby, free high-speed WiFi in the rooms with comic books in the bathrooms, and sleek Tanker-style desks with stunning LED TVs were just a few of the design and use pairings that Farmer developed for the property.
Hotel Zed touchpoints were considered at every turn including the use of rotary dial phones (complete with instructions for the, ahem, younger generation), cork boards for hotel info instead of boring binders; commissioned graffiti artwork for rooms; and typewriters in the lobby (again, with someone on hand to show guests how they work).
The Hotel Zed story inspired Farmer to purchase another property in Kelowna and truly ‘Zedify’ it as well. In summer 2016, Hotel Zed Kelowna, the younger sibling to the Victoria property arrived. The latest addition to the company featured many of the same, industry-challenging amenities, but incorporated roller skates, a mini-disco, and a roof-top patio with a view over Okanagan Lake.
The sister properties share some funky and fun similarities, including bikes and longboards that are free to use, vintage shuttle buses (VW Micro Buses in Victoria and Chevy Greenbrier in Kelowna) and a customer-first approach that invites guests to grab coffee in the lobby, rather than alone in their room.
In 2015, to generate interest and support couples everywhere, Farmer launched the ‘Nooner’ at Hotel Zed Victoria, confirming that it is exactly what people thought it was.
Working with, and not just in, the community
Farmer always seeks to devise and implant innovative ideas at Accents Inns and Hotel Zed. At Accent Inns, she introduced InnAid, a program that gets the staff out into their BC communities to make a difference in other people’s lives and support the creation of a sustainable world, supporting more than 430 organizations in BC.
In addition, Accent Inns has continued to support a number of local and provincial charities over the long-term including the Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia, Ride to Conquer Cancer, Tour De Rock, and the BC SPCA.
Farmer continues to search for ways to improve the working environment through professional development programs, as well as salary and benefit packages that are higher than the industry norm. Furthermore, she has established career tracks for employees, hires from within and empowers staff to affect corporate decision-making.
They like her, they really like her
Farmer isn’t building a trophy case for her many accolades, but she definitely could. Since taking on the role of Bike Lover (President & CEO), Farmer, Accent Inns, and Hotel Zed have been lauded by industry, consumers, and their staff.
Most recently, in September 2016 Farmer was made Honourary Captain of the Navy. She would welcome the address of, “HCapt(N) Farmer.”
In addition to the recognition as Hotelier of the Year and Honourary Captain of the Navy, additional accolades and awards have included:
- Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 Under 40
- YWCA Woman of Distinction
- Profit Magazine’s Top 100 Canadian Women Entrepreneurs
- Best Companies to Work For (2011)
- CAFE Family Business of the Year
About Accent Inns
Celebrating 30 years in business in 2016, Accent Inns likes to describe themselves as not your typical, stuffy hotel chain. Yes, they have modern, clean rooms, but they will also tell you where to go (in a good way). They will give you the down low on where the locals hang – the hot spots for shopping, dining and hitting the town. Oh yeah, they also like to mention that they are also a pint-sized, boastfully BC hotel chain with five locations; Victoria, Burnaby, Vancouver Airport (Richmond), Kelowna & Kamloops and each of them is a winner of the TripAdvisor “Certificate of Excellence.” Stay local. Stay real.
Brian Cant, Tartan Group: 250-592-3838, 250-888-8729 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org