WOODSTOCK, P.E.I. - Having done a fair share of travelling in his day, Don McDougall believes he has a good understanding of what makes for a good night’s stay.
“You have to have a good bed, and you have to have a good TV, and you have to have water that’s hot, the basics,” says the new owner of the Mill River Resort.
“The bed is just right; everything about the place is right,” assesses McDougall as he looks around the resort where renovations are wrapping up a full year ahead of schedule.
“That is very satisfying, because you want people to leave happy.”
The experience starts with a wide and welcoming main lobby.
McDougall took ownership of the Mill River resort complex, including the hotel, campground and golf course nearly a year and a half ago and immediately set out to transform what he admits had become a “tired” property into the destination it was meant to be.
While confident the team of contractors who have been on site have delivered, he admits that’s still just part of the process.
“We’re halfway there,” he stressed. “All we have is a really attractive place that we can be quite proud of, but, at the end of the day, satisfaction is going to come when it is a sustainable business; when it is actually bringing in more money than we’re spending and you have a little bit left over so that you can re-invest and keep it up-to-date.”
He’s sold on the concept that happy guests are returning guests. He believes the resort already had the culture of hospitality the industry requires but needed to upgrade its infrastructure.
Guestrooms have been renovated. The restaurant, bar and lobby have all been modernized. New conference facilities have been added and the golf pro shop has been relocated and is open year-round. A larger deck with improved viewing of the championship golf course has been added off the Callaghans Restaurant and Bar, and an elevator has been installed. To insure the entire resort is accessible, a set of steps on the lower level has been replaced with a ramp.
“You want to convey a sensitivity to people who have challenges,” he acknowledges. The entrance to the campground has been moved to accommodate front desk registration at the resort and the resort parking lot has been realigned accordingly. Improvements have also been made to the tennis and pickleball courts, and a new fitness room has been added, available to resort guests and to Mill River Aquaplex members.
McDougall credits the design team from Design 360 for envisioning what the resort would look like, Scott Costain who was seconded as project manager and a talented group of contractors who took on the many facets of the $8.5 million renovation project. He noted during the official opening that 70 per cent of the cost was funded by the provincial government and 30 per cent by his company.
He extended appreciation to Premier Wade MacLaughlan for taking the leap of faith that he would lead up to government’s expectations for the property.
Distinctive woodwork enhances the entire property. Paintings and photography by local artists also decorate the complex.
Electrical, lighting, internet access, and guestroom furniture and TVs have all been enhanced.
‘I would say, from my point of view, the end product is beyond my expectations,” McDougall offered.