Fairmont Pacific Rim

At MPI’s annual WEC event in downtown Vancouver this summer, the star of the show wasn’t a general session speaker of any kind. It was the city of Vancouver itself, right from the opening soiree on the waterfront plaza at the stunning new LEED platinum Vancouver Convention Centre.

As a few thousand attendees gathered around the famous 4-legged Olympic torch at sunset, people gushed about Stanley Park to the left, the largest urban park in North America. To the right, the glass Centre leaning out over Coal Harbor gleamed in the dying light. And directly front and center, the Rocky Mountains framed the entire bay. Everywhere, you heard people swoon, “Ohmigod, I had no idea how beautiful Vancouver is!”

Then, if you turn around and walk 50 steps across the street past the brushed charcoal Lamborghini, you bump right into the front door of the new 377-room Fairmont Pacific Rim. No matter how many conferences you attend, it’s doubtful you’ll ever find a more well poised hotel/convention center combo.

A two-sided glass fireplace/art installation and a $225,000 Fazioli grand piano anchor the lobby lounge, below a 120-ft origami sculpture lining the 40-ft ceiling overhead. The busy lounge opens up to the outdoor sidewalk café in warmer months. And at night, guest pianists entertain the mannered crowd before and after dinner at the mezzanine-level restaurant ORO, serving authentic Pan-Asian. For group events, there are two chefs tables seating eight each, and a private room for 12.

The large rooms/suites are eye poppers with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows and a Native Canadian design thrust with wood paneling and nature-themed fine art photography. There’s very little clutter, and we’re told this is the only hotel in Canada with HDTV channels. The huge bathrooms are truly impressive with a full-size soaking tub, glass rainshower, separate WC, endless countertop/shelf space and a TV-integrated mirror. The loos were designed as big as they are because the hotel is anticipating eventual 5-diamond status.

“I close a lot of business in here,” laughs Siaochi Leong, group sales manager, as she runs her hand along the counter.

The other thing that Leong is particularly proud of is the fact that 7,000 sf of space in the back of the house is dedicated to F&B preparation—unheard of for a 377-room hotel—adjacent to 15,000 sf of function space. “That makes it easy for us to do synchronized table service including special requests, not banquet service,” she says.

We end our tour with a Fairmont-hosted industry cocktail reception on the pool deck, facing the convention center and mountains. The space has a 1950s retro motel vibe with five cabanas housing 60-inch TVs and outdoor fireplaces.

Then I ask Leong where I can rent bikes to ride the 9-mile oceanfront trail around Stanley Park, and she directs me to the bike rental operation right across the street. So within minutes of the lobby, groups of 20-25 pax can be wheeling along the Pacific Ocean in one of the world’s most visually stunning cities.