Don Schreifels shares his insights from over three decades in the hotel industry
Hospitality can be a challenging profession — especially in the luxury market — but Park Hyatt Toronto’s sales and marketing director Don Schreifels still loves the experience of working with people, even after three decades in the hotel business.
Born in Toronto and raised in Mississauga, Schreifels’ first exposure to his future career was the result of the luck of the draw. A guidance counsellor at T.L. Kennedy Secondary School ran a multi-week exercise where Schreifels would choose a card from a deck that guided him into potential careers based on his personality. “After a few weeks, I remember when we got to the end and the card said that I was meant to pursue a career in hospitality. And I thought, ‘OK, what does that even mean?’” he laughs.
Schreifels learnt more about his chosen profession through Sheridan’s Hospitality Administration and Management program. “Dealing with people excited me, and the idea that it could be a career to use your personality to make people happy with their stay or time at your facility, whether a restaurant or a hotel,” he says. “And the students that were there made it interactive and fun. We really enjoyed our time together creating this environment that was going to be our potential career.”
Based on a promising first-year summer internship at the Harbour Castle Hilton (now the Harbour Castle Westin), Schreifels started working front desk at the chain upon graduation from Sheridan in 1980. After eight years of front desk and conference service sales positions with Harbour Castle, he went to work front desk at another high-end hotel property: Four Seasons Toronto. Schreifels enjoyed the front desk interaction, with guests ranging from Mary Kay Cosmetic conventions to overseas travellers, and relished the hectic problem solving aspects of the position. But his true interests lay with conference sales. Moving to L’Hotel (now the InterContinental) as association sales manager for the US market, Schreifels found his next opportunity at a Blue Jays game during a Canadian Hotel Marketing & Sales Executives (CHMSE) event.
“I was chatting with the director of marketing with the Four Seasons Inn at the Park, and she ended up calling me the next day to offer a job,” he remembers. Schreifels’ career at Four Seasons would span the next 29 years, taking him from a resort-selling role in Palm Beach to director of sales and marketing positions in Newport Beach, New York (for Nevis in the Caribbean), Los Angeles (for Bora Bora Resort) and, most recently, New York City.
In 2012, Schreifels returned to Canada to help open the new Four Seasons Toronto, before returning to supervise sales efforts on the extensive renovation of the Four Seasons New York.
Now, Schreifels splits his time between overseeing the two-year overhaul of the Park Hyatt Toronto and working on task forces with other Hyatt properties to share his knowledge and continue in his never-ending quest for learning — advice that he hopes the next generation of students will share.
“Go and spend some time in the industry that you’re interested in — you have to have a passion for the hospitality industry and if it’s not in your blood and something you feel strongly that you can deliver, you’re not going to enjoy it,” he says. “From 1980 to today — and thank you to Sheridan for helping me get there — I love what I do every day.”