GMs share insights into what makes hospitality tick
GMs share insights into what makes hospitality tick
18 DECEMBER 2018 8:06 AM

A roundup of HNN’s “Running the Show” from 2018 features a range of advice from a diverse array of hotel GMs across the globe.

GLOBAL REPORT—Any number of motivations can drive a person to pursue a career in hotels, but one of the most universal traits found among hotel GMs is a love for people and hospitality.


Speaking with Hotel News Now for our ongoing “Running the Show” series, GMs shared what they get from careers in the hotel industry and what they hope to give back.


Here’s a look back at the GMs we spoke to in 2018—spanning from San Diego to Dubai—and some of the advice they had to share for hoteliers.

Orcun Turkay, GM at the AC Hotel Columbus Dublin, Ohio, had the chance to incubate his love of hospitality through the world of food and beverage. His first job in the field was as a busboy at a steakhouse in his home country of Turkey. He said one of his focuses as a GM is making sure employees are given similar opportunities to develop their careers: “If you’re working with the right people and you have the right people in place … if you provide them with the right training and they feel appreciated, that takes care of a lot of (potential problems).”

Silvia Balcazar, GM at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Silao Airport in Silao, Mexico, similarly got into hospitality through a love of F&B, but stuck around because of a love of meeting and interacting with people of differing cultures and experiences, which she said happens in abundance at her current property. “I say this hotel is like the U.N., because you can walk around and hear so many different languages,” she said.

Just three weeks before moving to Louisville, Kentucky, to take over as GM of the Omni Louisville, Scott Stuckey suffered a stroke. He said the experience drove the lesson home that it’s vital to prioritize your health, and he wanted to make sure his employees and guests had to the tools to do so. “I’ve made health a priority for our entire Omni Louisville team,” he said. “Now that we’re open, I host a weekly morning run for our hotel guests. Compared to rebuilding my health, opening a new hotel is a piece of cake—enjoyed in moderation, of course!”

Little America FlagStaff GM Fred Reese said one of his top goals as a GM is taking a hands-on approach and showing his staff how to get a job done firsthand. “I have no problem rolling up my sleeves and getting dirty. You’ll see me in the dish pit. I like to do construction on my home, so it was great when we were doing the renovation,” he said.

Similarly, Donnie Lee, GM of The Gant, A Destination Hotels & Resorts property in Aspen, Colorado, said the spirit of collaboration and helpfulness is one thing that continues to draw out his love for the hotel industry. “There’s a drive to be excellent,” he said. “There’s a drive to grow as a person, and there’s a drive to help other people grow as people and collaborate together, so it creates such a bond between people.”

Moïse Aykanat, GM of Nhow Marseille in Marseille, France, said he finds his love of hospitality by marrying it with entertainment, which is an approach he refined during his decade working as both an entertainer and hotelier with Club Med and a stint as a TV producer. “People do not always see the connection between entertainment, TV and hotels, but it is all about managing staff, keeping people’s passions alive. I think that experience gave me more success at leadership,” he said.

Mark Salquist, GM of the Avatar Hotel in Santa Clara, California, said he enjoys the life of a hotelier and specifically managing his property because of the diverse set of challenges it provides. “I sometimes tell the young people here that it’s not a job; it’s more of an adventure,” he said. “No two days are the same. In the hotel industry, on any given day there are sudden twists and turns.”

While GMs across the board have altruist reasons for wanting to elevate their employees, Katie Baldassaro, GM of the SpringHill Suites Pittsburgh Bakery Square said putting your employees in a position to succeed can also be a boon for leadership. “My biggest thing is I don’t like to micromanage and I don’t like to hover; I want to be able to trust,” she said. “As long as you train them and you can trust them, and give them the empowerment tools they need, they feel better about themselves, and it gives the guests a better experience.”

Mentorship helped Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport GM Nayla Chowdhury in a career where she managed some of Hilton’s most important properties, including what is now the largest property in that company’s largest brand. And she said she continuously looks to pay things forward, especially for young women looking for career opportunities. “I feel like there need to be role models, especially women in leadership roles and at the senior level,” she said. “It’s just very important for (women) to see that it can be done.”

While Steve Cowan didn’t originally plan a career in hotels, the Maine native grew to love the hotel industry after falling into a hotel job after college. He said he got significant help from his superiors along the way, and he hopes to foster that same attitude at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. “We’re always talking about how to help grow our team and how to move people from hourly positions to leadership,” he said. “It’s about how do we take those junior leaders to the next level to become department heads or part of the executive committee. For me, it’s really about that. That’s the legacy I’d like to leave.”

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