Markus McRurie makes a habit out of enjoying his surroundings
The hotelier lives the good life (and helps others do the same) on Vancouver Island
Getting to Tofino on wheels isn’t the easiest proposition these days. It depends on where you’re coming from, of course, and the obligatory ferry to Nanaimo will probably be part of the trip for anyone from the Lower Mainland.
But those travelling to the town on Vancouver Island’s west coast by car will encounter a long, winding road (Highway 4) that—for the past year and until summer 2020—is under some pretty cumbersome construction. The province-mandated work began largely because of a 2010 incident that saw an ambulance carrying two paramedics drive over the edge.
The upshot of that is an effort to widen the highway to create two full lanes, as well as blasting the bedrock above. And that means shutting down the thoroughfare for hours at a time. It’s something Markus McRurie is all too familiar with.
The guest relations and marketing manager at Tofino’s Pacific Sands Beach Resort drives from Ucluelet (or “Ukie”) through the work zone every day. A Coquitlam native, McRurie has spent seven years on the Island, and even with the construction, it doesn’t seem like he’s in any hurry to get back to the city.
Days begin with a walk through the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet with his two dogs, an 11-year-old golden retriever and a one-year-old German shepherd. McRurie, who recently moved to Ucluelet from Tofino with his wife, Sammy, admits that the retriever was “not thrilled” at first.
The relocation (it’s about a 35-minute drive) was more about the real estate prices than anything else. Buying a home was worth the construction trade-off, apparently.
McRurie started surfing around the same time he arrived in Tofino, and now it’s a part of his routine. Every morning he monitors the surf, and most days he’ll put on the wetsuit and get out there. It doesn’t hurt that Pacific Sands is 20 feet from the beach. “I try to get here as soon as possible, just so I can check the waves,” notes the 29-year-old, who’s much more likely to suit up in fall or winter, when the tide is rolling. “It’s very convenient working on the No. 1 surf beach in Canada.”
No kidding. Pacific Sands straddles Cox Bay, so most–if not all–of its suites are right on the beach, with fully equipped kitchens meant to make you feel at home on the waterfront.
It’s finally time to get to work for McRurie, who often pulls shifts from noon to 8. As the title suggests, there are two main components to his job: marketing and guest relations. When the counter is full with people checking in and out, he’ll emerge from his desk in the back to help, or to answer the phone. But on the marketing side, he’s often working on branding, scanning TripAdvisor reviews or putting together social media posts.
Instagram is responsible for a sizable chunk of business (the hotel’s largest demographic is females aged 25-35), but with that comes the push for free rooms and perks from those with huge follower bases, in exchange for posting about the trip.
“It’s about finding the authentic stories, and I think that’s where Instagram will succeed,” McRurie says. “I heard a funny saying: If they have the word ‘influencer’ in their bio, chances are that’s not a person you want to go with.”
Though he tries to bring a packed lunch when he can, McRurie finds it hard to resist the temptation to grab a bite at the hotel’s Surfside Grill. He’s partial to the restaurant’s salmon tacos. As far as other in-town options go, he recommends local favourites Wolf in the Fog and Shelter.
Pacific Sands’ main rival, the Wickaninnish Inn, comes with a renowned restaurant, though McRurie considers it a “bit stuffy.” A little competition is healthy, right?
This is when McRurie usually has to come out from behind the curtain to help the desk, as check-in typically falls in the 3- to 4-p.m. time slot. On summer nights, it’s common to see about 60 arrivals a day, so it’s all hands on deck for the resort, which rakes in well over $1 million in revenue during those peak months.
“At check-in, there’s the potential for people to say stuff like ‘Oh, this isn’t the room we booked’ or ‘I was hoping for a room a little closer to the beach,’” says McRurie, who acknowledges that guests are often bent out of shape from the drive, especially if they run into the construction. “That’s where I can help them out, smooth everything over.”
McRurie is also a volunteer firefighter for Ucluelet, so whenever he’s not at work, he’s on call. Still a rookie, he admits that calls are infrequent (usually around one every two days). When they happen, though, he’s ready to go. “A few days ago, there was a van on fire, and you get pretty excited when one of those comes through, because we don’t get to do that a lot,” McRurie says. “Nobody was hurt, luckily, but we got to put out a car fire and use all the toys we train with. I get pretty jealous when I’m at work and something cool comes in.”