As the Park Hyatt reopens its doors after nearly four years, general manager Bonnie Strome reflects on three decades in the hotel industry

Bonnie Strome is a hotel manager’s hotel manager. She’s passionate about going to work every day, even after 29 years in the business — the last eight as the GM of Yorkville’s Park Hyatt. The hotel first opened in 1936 at Bloor and Avenue as the Park Plaza Hotel, and has been a landmark ever since, hosting prime ministers, royalty, members of the local arts and literary community and international luminaries who flocked to Yorkville when the Toronto International Film Festival made its home there.In that 85-year history, the hotel has undergone a few major remodels, but none as big as its most recent facelift, which saw the doors close for nearly four years. “I get to be the GM during the most exciting reopening in the city,” Strome says. Part of the remodel meant downsizing from 346 guest rooms to 219, to create larger spaces Strome refers to as “right-sized for luxury.” The redevelopment also added 65 rental apartments and the return of the legendary bar, now called the Writers Room (formerly the Roof Lounge).Strome’s entire career prepared her for this high-pressure, once-in-a-generation project for one of Toronto’s most recognized hotels — even if she didn’t realize it at the time. She hadn’t planned on a life in the hotel business. Having studied travel and tourism at Sheridan, Strome imagined working on an exotic island. “I actually never entered into the tourism space,” she says. “I had an intern placement at a hotel, and I never left.” Strome, whose first job was working the front desk at the Delta Meadowvale in Mississauga, found this career matched her passion for creating memorable guest experiences. “It’s a very supportive industry and gets in your blood a little,” she explains. “It’s 24 hours a day. You never say, ‘The office is closed today, we’re all heading home.’ It gets addictive, and I noticed it for the last three years when I haven’t had an operating hotel. You quickly forget how much high energy it is being in a hotel all the time. And I missed that.” It’s impossible not to hear Strome’s excitement as she talks about the reopening, which was officially Sept. 15. The closing was an emotional time for her, and the team said goodbye with a huge party in the hotel’s lobby. “That was one of the pinnacles of the closure,” she says, “seeing everyone so excited and proud of what they had accomplished. “What really drives me is the team,” she adds, “and you learn along the way if you’re leading well because the team will tell you. When people are happy to come to work, it makes a big difference in us succeeding.” During the closure, the team worked with interior design firm Studio Munge, which drew inspiration from Canada’s seasons and landscapes for every element of the reno. “The architecture and the design are stunning,” she says. “It’s not something anyone’s going to expect in Toronto.”Canadian art is now a focal point, including pieces from Indigenous artists and a large tapestry that greets guests by artist Shannon Bool. “The entranceway has beautiful metal panels on the ceiling that make it look like a starry night,” Strome says. “As the guest steps into the lobby, it feels like they’re standing in a world-class art exhibit.”It’s been a lot of work for Strome, but she gets to see her efforts all over the hotel. Knowing the little details matter when it comes to elegant spaces like this, she spent her time perfecting them — from helping to select guest-room accessories to choosing the china and glassware. “I was able to have input on so many of these design and construction elements,” Strome says.Strome, who was personally involved in the hiring process for every position on her team, is passionate about advocating for the hotel business, which, she says, needs support now more than ever. She volunteers with the Greater Toronto Hotel Association (where she formerly served as chair) and Destination Toronto, which is focused on the recovery and promotes the city’s cultural offerings to visitors and Torontonians alike. “People miss the opportunity to meet and socialize,” Strome says. “To be able to get together at hotels and interact with others is (something) that people are going to be able to enjoy as we see the hotel industry start to recover.”Another factor that drives Strome is her position as a woman at the helm of a full-service luxury hotel. She says it’s becoming more common to see female GMs, but that wasn’t the case when she started out. She mentors both men and women within her organization, but often, she says, “I feel like I have a different responsibility to work with our female leaders who want to aspire to different roles.”For Strome, holding a high position at such a well-known hotel also has been a great example for her two daughters. “When I became GM,” she says, “I didn’t realize how proud I was that my daughters would see that their mom had achieved this milestone in this industry. That was the first moment it really hit me. I took on the GM role and went, ‘Wow!’”

As the Park Hyatt reopens its doors after nearly four years, general manager Bonnie Strome reflects on three decades in the hotel industry

Bonnie Strome is a hotel manager’s hotel manager. She’s passionate about going to work every day, even after 29 years in the business — the last eight as the GM of Yorkville’s Park Hyatt.

The hotel first opened in 1936 at Bloor and Avenue as the Park Plaza Hotel, and has been a landmark ever since, hosting prime ministers, royalty, members of the local arts and literary community and international luminaries who flocked to Yorkville when the Toronto International Film Festival made its home there.

In that 85-year history, the hotel has undergone a few major remodels, but none as big as its most recent facelift, which saw the doors close for nearly four years. “I get to be the GM during the most exciting reopening in the city,” Strome says. Part of the remodel meant downsizing from 346 guest rooms to 219, to create larger spaces Strome refers to as “right-sized for luxury.” The redevelopment also added 65 rental apartments and the return of the legendary bar, now called the Writers Room (formerly the Roof Lounge).

Strome’s entire career prepared her for this high-pressure, once-in-a-generation project for one of Toronto’s most recognized hotels — even if she didn’t realize it at the time. She hadn’t planned on a life in the hotel business. Having studied travel and tourism at Sheridan, Strome imagined working on an exotic island. “I actually never entered into the tourism space,” she says. “I had an intern placement at a hotel, and I never left.”

Strome, whose first job was working the front desk at the Delta Meadowvale in Mississauga, found this career matched her passion for creating memorable guest experiences. “It’s a very supportive industry and gets in your blood a little,” she explains. “It’s 24 hours a day. You never say, ‘The office is closed today, we’re all heading home.’ It gets addictive, and I noticed it for the last three years when I haven’t had an operating hotel. You quickly forget how much high energy it is being in a hotel all the time. And I missed that.”

It’s impossible not to hear Strome’s excitement as she talks about the reopening, which was officially Sept. 15. The closing was an emotional time for her, and the team said goodbye with a huge party in the hotel’s lobby. “That was one of the pinnacles of the closure,” she says, “seeing everyone so excited and proud of what they had accomplished.

“What really drives me is the team,” she adds, “and you learn along the way if you’re leading well because the team will tell you. When people are happy to come to work, it makes a big difference in us succeeding.”

During the closure, the team worked with interior design firm Studio Munge, which drew inspiration from Canada’s seasons and landscapes for every element of the reno. “The architecture and the design are stunning,” she says. “It’s not something anyone’s going to expect in Toronto.”

Canadian art is now a focal point, including pieces from Indigenous artists and a large tapestry that greets guests by artist Shannon Bool. “The entranceway has beautiful metal panels on the ceiling that make it look like a starry night,” Strome says. “As the guest steps into the lobby, it feels like they’re standing in a world-class art exhibit.”

It’s been a lot of work for Strome, but she gets to see her efforts all over the hotel. Knowing the little details matter when it comes to elegant spaces like this, she spent her time perfecting them — from helping to select guest-room accessories to choosing the china and glassware. “I was able to have input on so many of these design and construction elements,” Strome says.

Strome, who was personally involved in the hiring process for every position on her team, is passionate about advocating for the hotel business, which, she says, needs support now more than ever. She volunteers with the Greater Toronto Hotel Association (where she formerly served as chair) and Destination Toronto, which is focused on the recovery and promotes the city’s cultural offerings to visitors and Torontonians alike.

“People miss the opportunity to meet and socialize,” Strome says. “To be able to get together at hotels and interact with others is (something) that people are going to be able to enjoy as we see the hotel industry start to recover.”

Another factor that drives Strome is her position as a woman at the helm of a full-service luxury hotel. She says it’s becoming more common to see female GMs, but that wasn’t the case when she started out. She mentors both men and women within her organization, but often, she says, “I feel like I have a different responsibility to work with our female leaders who want to aspire to different roles.”

For Strome, holding a high position at such a well-known hotel also has been a great example for her two daughters. “When I became GM,” she says, “I didn’t realize how proud I was that my daughters would see that their mom had achieved this milestone in this industry. That was the first moment it really hit me. I took on the GM role and went, ‘Wow!’”