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Youth Force
Hospitality career has staying power

By Mark Toljagic
Special to The Sun

Like many young people, Kris Crundwell didn't exactly know what he wanted to do as a career. Becoming a lawyer seemed like a good idea, but he wasn't wedded to it.
Centennial College Hospitality and Tourism Administration students gain first-hand experience by working in the program's on-campus dining room.

To earn some pocket money, Crundwell started working in the service industry, first in the stately old Guild Inn on the Scarborough Bluffs, then at the parts counter of a Volkswagen dealer.

He returned to hospitality soon enough, realizing that he had "fallen in love with the industry."

"I developed a passion for sales and marketing," Crundwell, 40, recounts of his early days in the hotel business. "I realized that selling can take place at every level -- even the room attendant can sell services." His ardor for hotel marketing would serve him well.

Today, he's director of Canadian sales for InterContinental Hotels Group (Canada) Inc., the world's largest hotel chain, operating such brand names as InterContinental Hotels, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites.

He didn't get to where he is today without a good education.

While he was already working in the business, Crundwell enrolled in Hospitality and Tourism Administration at Centennial College to get a proper grounding. He credits the college with providing him with career focus and even some fun opportunities to grow.

"I didn't pass public speaking the first go around, but picked it up again at night school and really had a great time," Crundwell recalls. And wouldn't you know it? The bane of his college existence is now a vital skill. "I do weekly presentations for our corporate clients and franchisees."

Centennial's three-year program -- covering a broad range of hospitality business practices in marketing, human resources, finance and industry operations -- gave Crundwell a solid foundation, but he recommends working part time while going to college to augment the learning.

"Having multifaceted knowledge of the hotel trade is an asset," he says.
  • Centennial's three-year Hospitality and Tourism Administration program conveniently admits students at three intervals throughout the year.
  • Students can choose electives in three areas for career-focused study: travel and tour operations; hotel and resort; food and beverage.
  • In addition to a four-month internship, students get practical experience working at an on-campus hospitality management centre.
  • For more details, visit

  • Centennial's program includes a full-time, four-month internship with an employer, ensuring that each student is exposed to a live workplace where anything can happen. Many students on internship continue as full-time employees after graduation.

    Today, Crundwell manages a team of directors who maintain relationships with Canadian corporations that regularly require hotel accommodations for business meetings and corporate travel. Crundwell is also charged with finding strategies to grow InterContinental Hotels Group's market share.

    "The business has changed; we have to work smarter. There's so much (hotel) supply in Canada. The brand is tied to the product, and that's vital to our business."

    Crundwell explains that the 52-year-old Holiday Inn brand, for example, is readily recognized by travellers, which means it must be protected and extended on the Internet -- but not without care.

    Crundwell says business travel has rebounded since those dark days post-9/11, thanks to a bustling economy and strong dollar. Tourism is Canada's second-largest employment sector with revenues of more than $54 billion, and provides a diverse range of career opportunities.

    At first blush, the hours may seem long and pay meagre in the hospitality industry, but on the plus side, there's bound to be a position you'll find both challenging and lucrative. "If you want it, you can get the rewarding career you desire," Crundwell says.

    "Talk to people about what they're doing in the trade," he advises. "It's a business that really warrants passion -- the staple for success. I don't just hire skills."

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