Delta founder Bill Pattison — an icon of the industry

Bill Pattison (1932-2015)

Bill Pattison (1932-2015)

VICTORIA — He bought his first hotel in
Lewiston, Idaho for a dollar down and sold it a year later for the same price.
The profit was ‘in the learning,’ Bill Pattison always said. 

Pattison is best
known in Canada for founding Delta Hotels Ltd. in 1962 with four partners, and
serving as president until 1988, when the chain was sold. He passed away on
September 4.

During his tenure, Delta Hotels grew from one
hotel in Richmond, B.C., to a chain with hotels in seven provinces and Florida. 

From 1988 until recently Bill provided consulting services to the hotel
industry and associated real estate investment companies through Pattison
Information Inc. He was also a volunteer par excellence, serving on the board
of Tourism Industry Association of Canada, Canada Japan Business Association
(Tourism sector), Ryerson Polytechnic and later Guelph University.

In a tribute on his 75th birthday, a leader in
the industry wrote that Bill's true legacy was the number of people he helped
develop and support through the various stages of their professional careers
who now have leadership roles in international hotel companies.

Bill Pattison did something bold and unique — he built an enduring Canadian hotel brand. This all started back in the early 1960s when there wasn’t the saturation of hotel companies that we have today,” said John Pye, whose career includes senior positions at both Delta and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, and who became a personal friend of Bill's. 

“The common standards in service and the culture of the company were an extension of Bill's personality … over time employees began to refer to themselves as Deltoids, a term still used today.”

“He and Issy Sharp of Four Seasons both started hotel companies at the same time,” noted Bill Pallett of W.J. Pallett and Associates, who has worked for both Four Seasons and Delta. “There are a lot of parallels between the two Canadian hoteliers, one in the west and one in the east, different in style as well as hotel vision, but both offering great value for customers and guests.”

Pallett also remembered that he was a character, wearing bow ties before they were popular and insisting Delta develop its own distinctive martini glass.

One of the legends is that he asked bell persons and other hotel employees to walk on the sides of the hallways because guests typically walked down the middle — so that the hotel carpets would wear more evenly.

“He was of course
the founder of Delta Hotels and a true Canadian industry giant,” said Mark Hope
of Coast Hotels.

“He was a visionary and a pragmatist in a tough
industry. Always a gentleman and a scholar he led by example and hard work,”
wrote Lynn Fleming, who was former senior interior designer on many of his properties.

Watch for a special tribute to Bill in Canadian Lodging News October issue.