Getting Up Close with the Great Falls
After a long and exciting day yesterday that included a helicopter sightseeing tour, some butterflies, and an amazing magic show, I woke up to a grey, cold and drizzly day. But that was not going to deter me from exploring the City of Niagara Falls in more detail. I got up, took a nice long shower and went downstairs for breakfast to the Windows on the Lane Restaurant which is a casual dining restaurant on the main floor of the Best Western Cairn Croft Hotel.
The Windows at the Lane Restaurant
I then linked up with Lisa Smith, who works at the hotel, to get a tour of the facility. Lisa took me into the tropical courtyard that is the signature feature of the Cairn Croft Hotel and explained that the name of the hotel was derived from its original owners whose last name was Cairn, and from the word “croft”, which is Scottish for “inn”. Even today the hotel is still family owned and a friend of the owners hand-painted the faux-stone pattern on the walkways surrounding the tropical courtyward. Lisa pointed out that this property was the first Best Western hotel in Canada and has been extensively updated in recent years. The company Best Western Motels was founded back in 1946 which originally was an informal link between properties, where each hotel recommended other lodging establishments to travelers. As far back as 1962 the Best Western Hotel Chain had the only hospitality reservations system that covered all of the United States and Canada.
The poolside Bourbon Street Bistro
After a long history of company growth, Best Western today is the world’s largest hotel chain in the world and comprises more than 4,000 hotels in nearly 80 countries. One of Best Western’s unique marketing propositions is its free high-speed Wi-Fi access in all its hotels, a service that was rolled out across the entire chain in just eight months in 2004. From an organizational point of view, Best Western is also unique since it is not a traditional franchise operation. Best Western actually operates as a non-profit membership association, each property is individually owned and each franchisee acts and votes as a member of this association. Interestingly, hotels are allowed to retain their own identity and can keep their own independent name as part of this identity, as evidenced by the Best Western Cairn Croft name.
The tropical courtyard at the Best Western Cairn Croft
Lisa started giving me a tour through the tropical courtyard and explained that originally the building was a U-shaped motel with an outdoor courtyard. One of the improvements made to the property was the installation of a roof over the courtyard and the creation of a tropical environment, complete with a large heated indoor swimming pool, exotic trees and plants as well as a playground that makes the Cairn Croft a favourite destination for families with young children. The Bourbon Street Bistro overlooks the pool, serves cocktails, snacks and pizza and provides live entertainment on some weekends and holidays.
A popular spot for weddings
The family-feel of this property is also evidenced by the fact that many of the employees have been working here for a long time. Lisa mentioned that many of the staff have been here for 15 or even 20 years, somewhat of a rarity in the hospitality industry. Clients often become repeat customers and come back time and time again for a special weekend in Niagara Falls. The Croft Lounge is also a popular hangout on weekends and features karaoke, theme nights and dance music on the weekends.
Sitting area in my room