The Noralta Lodge Experience: More Than a Home Away From Home
For the past 17 years, Noralta Lodge Ltd. has been providing quality accommodations for the energy sector’s workforce. Today, the company continues to excel to higher levels as they gain new partnerships with local businesses, and plan to host residency to over 2,500 athletes and 300 technical officials for the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games.
The current standards give clients a home-feel experience throughout their nine lodges (and counting), and it’s something that the team at Noralta takes seriously on an ongoing basis. Noralta Lodge Ltd.’s Corey Smith, CEO, describes the importance of maintaining this experience as an understanding that their guests are away from many of their friends and family members.
“We seek to create a ‘home away from home’ atmosphere and guests are treated like family,” he says. “We know we can’t be just like home, but we aim to make each guest feel comfortable, safe, healthy and productive, and well-connected to their friends and family back home,” says Smith.
Smith further explains how they have gone to extra lengths to treat guests less like workers and more like family by providing them with gourmet meals, the latest technologies, state-of-the-art fitness facilities and a variety of games rooms.
“When comparing one of Noralta Lodge’s locations with a more traditional work camp, the differences are readily apparent. From the size of the buildings to the offerings in the kitchen, Noralta Lodge distinguishes itself from the usual work camp in just about every conceivable way,” he says. “We’ve thought of everything, so our guests can put their feet up whenever they need some downtime to rest and recharge.”
This “thought of everything” for guests’ downtime approach includes private rooms with a Comfort Sleeper pillow top mattress, which was exclusively designed for Noralta Lodge by Natural Rest Bedding, and 24-hour kitchen access to meals prepared by Red Seal chefs. Noralta Lodge is the only accommodation company in the Wood Buffalo region that offers a self-service gourmet buffet, rather than the usual and limited-option cafeteria-style kitchens.
With today’s rapid economic growth and the continuous need for people to employ the oil sand companies, more industry officials are seeing lodging as an attraction and retention tool when dealing with competitors. Because of this, clients are looking to Noralta Lodge to maintain a high-level accommodation status, and are succeeding because of it.
“Clients are expecting partners like us to help them be more competitive as employers, and be an extension of their workforce appreciation and their brands. We’re a partner in helping our clients maximize the comfort, and productivity of their workers,” says Smith.
Shannon Healy is an on-site quality administrator for a local oil sands company and has been a guest at Noralta Lodge’s Grey Wolf Lodge since July 1, 2014. She describes her stay as homey, welcoming, and is happy the staff know her by name.
“I have a social circle here. I even call some of the staff members the A-Team because they are so great,” he laughs. “I’ve gotten to know quite a bit of them and they know my name.”
A commuting Calgary resident, Healy further explains how she feels she has family-like relationships at the lodge due to the accommodating staff.
“I’ve been very thankful for the lasting friendships I’ve made at the lodge,” Healy shares. “When you are out in the bush, it’s nice to look forward to certain things, the food and friendly people.”
Noralta Lodge’s excellence has not only been proved to its industry clients and their clients’ employees, but it has further attracted a new partnership with Christina River Enterprises (CRE), the business arm of the Fort McMurray #468 First Nation.
According to the CRE’s Business Overview sourced on the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association’s website (www.naaba.ca), CRE started out servicing the custodial industry in 1987, and had since expanded to “Civil/Earth Works, Site Services, Expediting, and other services with resourceful and integral partnerships.”
Recently, CRE and Noralta Lodge have been working together by offering two new elements within the partnership. One of the elements will bring a new lodge to the surrounding area of Anzac.
“The first of the two new products that the Noralta Lodge and Christina River Partnership now offer is a full facilities management suite, which includes: culinary services, housekeeping and janitorial services, maintenance, security, grounds keeping, front desk, logistics, and guest services at client-owned facilities,” Smith explains. “Our second new product will be a strategically-located open lodge on Fort McMurray First Nations land, near Anzac, called Willow Lake Lodge. This location has long been identified as a target area for lodging in order to satisfy the growing demands of multiple customers in the region.”
Smith says this partnership brings together the unmatched workforce accommodation expertise of Noralta Lodge and the local presence and resources of Christina River Enterprises, to bring superior lodging solutions to the workforce accommodation industry.
And now, with new strategies and development underway within the company, Noralta Lodge’s representatives and employees are preparing to host the guests for the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games as they will be staying at Noralta Lodge’s Wolverine and Lynx Lodges in August.
“We are working very closely with Games organizers to ensure the Athletes Village portrays the same spirit as the rest of the community during the Games,” says Smith. “Just as the committee is working to make the Games the biggest and best yet, we’re planning that this be the biggest and best athletes’ facility yet by working with the organizing committee to ensure the excitement in the community is felt at the Village, as well.”
General Manager of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, Kim Rizzi, is excited Noralta Lodge has asked to take part in helping with accommodating facilities as past Western Canada Summer Games organizers have had guests sleep on bunk beds or cots, spread out into classrooms at local colleges and/or schools. And though this was the committee’s first approach, Noralta Lodge will help add the World-class touch.
“This was our original plan,” says Rizzi. “Then, over a year ago, Noralta Lodge came to the Games Operations Centre and asked how they could help. The question was asked: “What do we do well in Wood Buffalo? We do camps well.” And, this is where the partnership was born.”
Smith explains how creating this home-base atmosphere will be beneficial for the athletes because they will be provided with their own rooms and full food services that will allow them to be more comfortable and better rested for their events, but it will further benefit the community at-large.
“By us housing the athletes at the Athletes Village, we are taking the burden off the community of trying to house, feed and organize 2,500 athletes,” says Smith. “We’re taking on the logistical needs of the influx of athletes and this will allow the community to focus on the over 14,000 visitors who will be coming to the region for the Games.”
Rizzi echoes the same aspect for the overall benefits as Smith, by stating that having a centralized village will allow the guests to gain a lasting experience from being together in one place. It will also be logistically easier to transport the athletes and monitor their safety.
“The athletes will make life-long friends at this event because they will share accommodations, cultures, meals and the overall experience,” she says. “At the Athletes Village, we will offer food, medical, security, entertainment, internet and recreation services, as well as, a drop-in center.”
Rizzi describes the generosity from Noralta Lodge and the partnership between the company and the Games as paramount. She further shares Noralta Lodge is the big reason why these Games are raising the bar and setting a very high standard for future hosting.
“Noralta Lodge has come to the table offering their lodges to us and they have been a great partner and community leader,” Rizzi shares. “Their business practice, professionalism and corporate values, mirror the Games. Besides offsetting the Host Society costs of operations, their over and above commitment to the Games and this community is truly recognized.”
1. Noralta Lodge offers 24 hour open kitchens for guests to access. The kitchens serve 3 hot meals a day, buffet style, so guests can eat as much as they like. They also have a bagged lunch area so that guests can pack a lunch to take to work with them to ensure they are well-fed all day.
2. All Noralta Lodge facilities include a rec room, which include pool tables, darts boards, big screen tvs for guests to use. Noralta Lodge often hosts movie nights, and special events for guests in these games rooms.
3. All of Noralta Lodge’s rooms are private and designed for comfort. Their industry-leading housekeeping standards ensure rooms are pristine for all guests.
4. Guests spend time eating and socializing in the spacious dining area with vaulted ceilings. The light that pours through cathedral-style windows creates a wonderful space for enjoying the fine cuisine prepared by Red Seal chefs.
5. Guests’ ability to stay connected back home is paramount. All Noralta Lodge facilities have high speed internet, and guests have access to 177 national TV channels so guests can feel closer to home.
6. Hit the gym, without leaving “Home” at Noralta Lodge. Health, wellness, and a balanced lifestyle are important to Noralta Lodges’ clients and guests. Each lodge has a bright, modern fitness facility for guests to use at their convenience. Noralta Lodge also has a full-time Corporate Wellness & Recreation specialist on staff who runs fitness classes for guests, from strength training, to yoga, to stretch classes.
7. Noralta Lodge and Christina River Enterprises announced their partnership at a BBQ event on August 29, 2014.