The beautiful town of Hinton lies nestled in the Athabasca River valley, in Alberta’s Yellowhead County. With breathtaking views of the mountains, Hinton is hailed as “The Gateway to the Rockies”, and provides travelers with all the essentials needed to enjoy the great outdoors of Jasper National Park.
Except one key need: lodging.
There is a huge need for accommodations in Hinton. This town of just over 10,000 people boasts gorgeous hiking trails and campgrounds, the popular Beaver Boardwalk, and a variety of options for shopping and dining. Droves of tourists with a thirst for the mountains come to Hinton yearly, but end up having a hard time finding a place to stay.
That’s all about the change. Canada’s first dedicated Educational Tourism Hub is now being developed in this quaint town, and promises to become the first choice for educational and experiential tourism and hospitality in Canada.
PAR999 Holdings Inc. is a company that invests in and develops next-generation concept hotels and resorts. Its CEO and founding partner Amir Hassan has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, and he’s noticed that in the Canadian hospitality industry, there’s a shortage of human capital. This refers to the collective skills, knowledge, and experience belonging to (in this case) a population, in terms of their value to a country and/or industry.
“We feel that this is the reason for the lack of accommodation, especially high-end or luxury hotels and resorts, in the Hinton area,” Hassan explains. “I’ve driven through Hinton many times and I’ve noticed the growing shortage of hospitality and restaurant staff throughout the 10 hour drive on Highway 16, which goes through Hinton. This is an incredible area. People want to come here, but have nowhere to stay.”
He shares that Hinton is historically a pulp mill and a coal mine, and its stunning location at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains gives it a strong organic vibe of hospitality. “This town shouldn’t be so neglected and overlooked when it comes to tourism,” Hassan says. “The people here are awesome and welcoming, so I thought of developing an economic engine that would propel the town from an industrial to a service economy.”
This is how he envisioned the Teaching Hotel, where 600 students a year would live and work. The project, which will be completed in 3 phases, is already underway and has a current investment of C$45 million. “Our design is sustainable and is already attracting other hotel owners, post secondary students interested in hospitality careers, and anyone working in or interested in advanced education, tourism, and investment,” Hassan says.
He and his company are excited to invest in the town of Hinton by creating the teaching hotel by Bliss Hotels and Resorts, which is managed by PAR999. “Our unique model combines Teaching Hotel Model with an Independent Hotel Brand: The Bliss of Hinton,” he explains.
“We took the name Bliss from the historic archives of the Town of Hinton. This region in Canada is known for its fresh air, organic lifestyle, and being the entry point into Alaska,” says Hassan. “The brand name Bliss originates from the last terminal stop of Canadian National Rail before the rocky mountains of Alberta.”
Hassan has a passion for history and deep respect for the land. “(Hinton) was named after a timekeeper who operated the main store during the construction days of Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railways,” he adds. “In 1914, a small group of first settlers developed the station and named it Bliss. Their purpose was to provide hospitality and comfort to the train passengers arriving from far-fetched areas across North America. Their inspiring and, to most extent, bravely facing the harsh weather to welcome their guests inspired the concept of The Bliss.”
He envisions honoring this heritage with the Bliss of Hinton, and combines his love of the area and its rich history with a sustainable concept of integrating academics with a fully commercial vibrant hotel brand. This concept originates from the essence of leadership development. “In our approach,” Hassan says, “leadership is not a title or defined by authority. Instead, we believe that each working in the hospitality or tourism industry must possess an aptitude to lead solution creation to overcome unusual day-to-day guest requests or operational problems.”
The Bliss family of hospitality programs will also include best practices and encompass guest experience as part of the curriculum. This unique method carries a learning outcome of a sustainable, consistent approach. “We believe that today’s aspiring young hotelier needs to be equipped with more than the general business education,” Hassan says. “Our students will have first-hand exposure to the new science of guest experience using technology and social media, use data science to improve the guest experience and study and work in an environment that is sustainable and relates to the paradigm shift.”
PAR999 Holdings Inc.: www.par999.ca