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White Oaks Conference Resort & Spa: Connecting Guests with the Best of Niagara
White Oaks Resort & Spa (White Oaks) started out as a tennis club in 1978. Fast-forward almost 35 years and the fitness and racquet club sits adjacent to a four-diamond, five-star resort, conference center and spa with 220 rooms that continues to be privately owned and operated. The tennis facility evolved to become The Club at White Oaks, boasting six indoor tennis courts and a membership of more than 3,000 fitness enthusiasts. Along the way, White Oaks added a variety of amenities to entice, entertain and connect guests and conference goers with the best of the Niagara Region.
The resort began as a tennis club in 1978, and in 1984 the tennis club expanded with an 88-room hotel, which grew to 150 rooms by 1998. In 2001 the resort added the spa and conference center and scaled up to 220 guest rooms, which garnered a full five stars for the resort. The latest round of expansion began in 2008 when White Oaks closed down the tennis club to transform the space into an 110,000-square foot indoor athletic facility with indoor courts for tennis, squash and racquetball, as well as group fitness studios for yoga and pilates.
The resort also renovated 90 hotel rooms in July 2012, having turned summer 2012 into one of the highest performing summers in the hotel’s history in terms of occupancy. More recently, the company has made a push to increase the resort’s focus on sustainability; namely, White Oaks has been completing a sizeable lighting system retrofit on all six of the indoor tennis courts. Continuing on with its commitment to environmentally sound operations and with an eye to the future, White Oaks is pleased to be the first hotel in the Niagara Region with an electric vehicle charging station. The station, not unlike other valet parking spots at the front entrance, is capable of delivering enough energy to fuel a car’s highway trip; the charging process takes about 20 minutes. Partnering with over 1,500 resorts in the exciting Clean the World program, White Oaks recycles its soap and shampoo products to contribute to the global hygiene revolution. The program saves developing world lives, producing 80,000 bars of soap daily. Throughout it all, White Oaks works to integrate the services and amenities that keep clients coming back.
Responsive, Attentive Service
“I always say that every company has a culture, and White Oaks’ culture is based solely on providing extraordinary customer service,” asserts Ameer Wakil, COO of White Oaks. “After all, we’re not located on the ocean or at the bottom of a ski hill, so our reputation is based entirely on our customer service.” White Oaks is located in the heart of the Niagara Region in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, roughly equidistant from nearby St. Catharines, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, and convenient to wine country, casinos and natural wonders.
The resort also happens to be located across the street from the renowned Royal Niagara Golf Club and a quick drive from the Thundering Waters Golf Club. White Oaks maintains close working relationships with both courses to offer guests complete golfing getaway packages. The resort also operates the Golf Performance Institute on site, where golfers can treat themselves to a swing analysis and fitness training recommendation.
The White Oaks staff of 520 Team Members works to ensure guests need not travel far at all to find what they desire. White Oaks manages to house 220 luxury hotel rooms, a 110,000-square foot state-of-the-art sports facility, the four-diamond LIV Restaurant (which was awarded the Diner’s Choice Award 2012 by opentable.com) and the Spa at White Oaks, one of the largest spa facilities in Ontario.
To top it all off, White Oaks also offers a 67,000-square foot, fully equipped conference facility. White Oaks holds the distinction of being the only resort in Canada equipped with a conference facility certified by the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), meaning the center is continually being evaluated and measured against the world’s best conference centers. White Oaks delivers with the help of the Grand Event room, designed for large gatherings, corporate events and weddings.
The center also offers smaller rooms for day meetings, corporate strategy sessions and intimate gatherings. Every space comes equipped with a snack and coffee break station, a complete audio-visual package and a fully equipped Xerox Business Center. White Oaks also grants attendees access to the fitness center and the spa, so it’s no surprise that the conference center accounts for over 80 percent of White Oaks’ total business, which is heavy on Fortune 500 companies, according to Wakil.
The Niagara Standard in Luxury Accommodations
“We really have an amazing team, and I love to give them credit for our success,” admits Wakil. “They’re just a wonderful group of people who truly and sincerely care about the guest.”
White Oaks conducts rigorous surveying to ensure the improvements never come at the expense of customer and Team Member satisfaction. “We survey ourselves to death,” jokes Wakil. “We believe that excellence is not a goal or a destination that we endeavor to reach, but rather a continual journey we have embarked upon.” The effort appears to have paid off as the most recent round of surveys concluded that a full 95 percent of all guests would return to White Oaks or recommend the resort to a friend, with 3.5 percent of the remaining guests surveyed clarifying that they would not return only because they were not likely to return to the area.
Likewise, in a separate and anonymous survey, a full 96.5 percent of White Oaks Team Members responded that they would recommend working at the resort to a family member or friend. “That number has been pretty steady throughout our history, and I think it really speaks to why our Team Member retention rate is so high,” adds Wakil. Over 200 of White Oaks’ Team Members have been with the resort for at least five years and as many as 30 years in some cases.
For the immediate future, Wakil hopes to continue focusing on completing smaller renovation projects so as to not impact the customer experience. Further down the road, Wakil expects the White Oaks team to pursue a larger expansion of both the hotel and the conference center. Until then, the team will focus on celebrating annual milestones that remind the White Oaks team, members and guests that it’s the people and the Niagara Region that make White Oaks Resort & Spa so special.