2024 Women of the Year Awards: Leader – Winner Ingrid Jarrett

Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the BC Hotel Association, is the winner of the Leader category of the 2024 Women of the Year Awards


Ingrid Jarrett
President and CEO, BC Hotel Association

Ingrid Jarrett’s first job was as a chambermaid at a motel on Lake Okanagan. “Thank goodness it’s not called that anymore,” she says with a chuckle. “I cleaned on the weekends and evenings after school when I was 14. There were shag carpets and cigarette butts and beer cans and all kinds of things.”

That work experience set the stage for decades in hospitality for Jarrett, who moved to bartending and serving in her 20s. “I loved it—I learned so much about people, communication, organization,” she says.

Following that, Jarrett held a number of managerial and executive positions in the industry, including director of operations for the Fairmont Empress and general manager of both Osoyoos-based Watermark Beach Resort and the Royal Kelowna, as well as board positions with Tourism Victoria and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.

In February 2020—a month before the pandemic—she accepted the role of president and CEO with the Vancouver-based BC Hotel Association. (And you thought shag carpets were going to be the scariest thing in this article.) “All those skills I developed in my career set me up for the last four years, which have been incredibly challenging but incredibly rewarding,” she says. “Every day was a crisis. But the ability to develop relationships and partnerships served us well.”

The B.C. hotel industry, says Jarrett, hasn’t fully recovered from COVID because of the amount of debt many businesses still carry. And while occupancy rates have improved greatly since then, she argues that B.C.’s hotels aren’t close to full. “There’s no city, town or region in B.C. over the last five years that has been full, except for several days in a row if Vancouver has a huge conference,” Jarrett says. “In January, Vancouver’s average was under 43 percent.”

That’s also part of the argument she offers to Airbnb advocates who are distressed about the new provincial regulations (which Jarrett lobbied hard for) that restrict short-term rentals to primary residences only.

“Research showed that BCers paid $3 million in extra rent due to lack of available housing,” she says. “I’m not against short-term rentals at all—I stay at bed-and-breakfasts when I’m travelling. But everything shows that if you do what the legislation allows, there will be legal short-term rentals that will grow in the right place at the right time.”

The BC Hotel Association has eight full-time staff plus a team of contractors, and it oversees some 700 hotels and 300 suppliers. “The industry is so grateful and that’s the best compliment that I could ever have,” Jarrett says. “Getting a thank you from the people that we’re doing all this work for is so rewarding. It’s an incredible feeling.”