Give peace a chance

The year is 1969. America is mired in the Vietnam War. Stateside, the mounting civil rights movement sees protesters clash with police in every major city.

Amidst all this chaos, John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, stage their own unique protests, called ‘bed-ins’ with the first occurring in Amsterdam at the Hilton and a month later in Montreal at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, commonly dubbed ‘The Queen.’ The Canadian financial capital at the time was selected because the Beatles singer and songwriter was barred entry into the United Statues due to a prior cannabis conviction. 

Just graduating high school at the time, I vividly remember the event. Living in Montreal, I still recall the interviews broadcast live on television. The challenge for the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth was twofold. First, how do you pay homage to an event of this magnitude while at the same time not taking away valuable guest room space? As well, how do you commemorate the memory of John, Yoko and the entire worldwide movement for peace in a tasteful, nonextortive manner? The solution to this was incorporated into the one-year-long, C$140 million renovation, recently completed in July.

In May 1969, John and Yoko booked connecting rooms 1738, 1740, 1742 and 1744 at The Queen. Today, anyone can book room 1742, which is a singular, gigantic suite that includes those other rooms. Stepping across the threshold, one is immediately sent back half a century, with period furnishings, décor and retro electronics that have been modified to modern standards.

But the suite is much more than that. One wall includes a series of filing cabinet drawers, each one highlighting an element of the event. Recordings can be heard on vintage-style telephone equipment. Even the windows are faithfully painted with peace slogans. 

Quite simply, you’ll be sleeping in a museum – that is, if you bother to even try to sleep given all the materials surrounding you. Talk about the ultimate selfie with you and your loved one in pyjamas in the same bed as John and Yoko! 

This is but one example of an incredible event and a hotel that has taken it upon itself to honor that moment in history. On a global scale, though, just think of all the monumental events that have taken place in hotels over the past century. Hotels have staged important conferences, served as venues to sign treaties, and honeymooned the rich and the famous.

While a guest is living, your primary obligation as a hotelier is to respect their privacy. When asked if ‘so and so’ is staying at your property, best to simply smile and neither confirm nor deny his or her whereabouts. This is standard policy in any operating manual.

After that, however, your job is to halo your most honorable guests or notable occurrences. Naming a suite or adding a page onto your website is just a start. The degree to which you expand the history lesson is limited only by your imagination and budget. Just imagine what the Watergate Hotel will eventually do for the 1972 DNC break-in, the subsequent scandal and the impeachment of President Nixon. And if you don’t think you have any past events worth advertising in this manner then it’s time to start creating them!