Star of the City: Wakefield art gallery saves the day for tour group

Earlier this year, a tour group visiting the National Capital Region was planning a day of sightseeing that included a stop at the Mackenzie King Estate.

It’s a destination visited by thousands of tourists and residents annually without a hitch. But on this particular day, the tour group hit a major roadblock trying to visit the former country estate of Canada’s 10th and longest-serving prime minister: All the roads in Gatineau Park were closed.

In a panic, tour organizers began looking for alternate attractions and called Nathalie Coutou, who runs the Khewa Native Art Boutique in Wakefield.

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Even though the gallery was closed, Ms. Coutou greeted the group at 10 a.m., set up a teepee just for the group and entertained them with a traditional song of welcome, a smudging ceremony as well as the story of the indigenous peoples of the area before inviting everyone back into the gallery.

In recognition of her efforts, Ms. Coutou was named Ottawa Tourism’s 2016 Star of the City at a ceremony Wednesday night. The annual awards recognize customer service excellence in Ottawa-Gatineau’s tourism and hospitality industry.

More than 1,200 nominations were submitted by residents and visitors over the past year. In addition to Ms. Coutou, seven other individuals and businesses were recognized at Wednesday night’s gala:

Going the extra mile

Tarek Khefifi (Les Suites Hotel): A guest staying at the hotel feared she wouldn’t make it to her surgery in time the next morning because of a forecasted ice storm. Mr. Khefifi drove the guest to the hospital at 6 a.m. before his shift and also offered to pick her up afterwards.

Dynamic duo

Véronic Gauthier and Marie-Aimée Ndizihiwe (Casino du Lac-Leamy): A regular guest of the hotel was so enamoured with its linens that he purchased his own set, including a duvet, sheets, pillows and mattress topper. However, he found that his bed wasn’t the same without professional preparation. To help him and other guests, Ms. Gauthier and Ms. Aimée Ndizihiwe partnered to produce an instructional video on how to make a bed according to the Hilton Lac-Leamy’s standards.

Above and beyond

Simon Noujaime (Westin Ottawa): Three feet of snow and -10 degree temperatures didn’t stop Mr. Noujaime from clearing off an outdoor patio in only his banquets uniform to help a visiting group stage their winter-themed event.

Stars with heart

Martin Roy (Courtyard by Marriott Ottawa East): After guests of the hotel found an injured cat on the side of the road and brought it to the lobby, Mr. Roy phoned several vet clinics and offered to drive the guests and the feline to a nearby clinic. He then checked on its conditions over the next few days and kept the hotel’s guests updated on the cat’s recovery.

What’s lost is found

Norma Salazar (Cartier Place Suite Hotel): After a guest forgot her laptop in her hotel room, Ms. Salazar dropped everything and personally drove to the airport to deliver the computer before the guest’s flight.

Tarek Khefifi and the team at Les Suites Hotel Ottawa were also recognized for going above and beyond in ensuring their guests had a memorable stay.

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