These interviews are part of a series that highlights new hires within the industry. Have you recently started a new role or do you know someone who has? Submit your ideas to email@example.com.
Odessa Marriott Hotel and Conference Center recently named Marian Wilson as new director of sales and marketing and Stephen Dennis as general manager. Wilson joins the Odessa team from her previous role as director of sales and marketing of The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, and Dennis comes from The Stella Hotel where he also served as general manager.
Here's what the two have to say about their new roles:
1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?
Marian Wilson: I am looking forward not only to being a part of the success of an opening hotel, but also part of something bigger - the revitalization of this outstanding community of Odessa. Despite my short nine-month tenure in the Odessa community, I see so much potential for the downtown area based on the passion of the locals. We are not just selling our hotel, we are selling the Odessa experience as a destination for travelers and meeting attendees. That experience is a combination of the warmth of our neighbors, the unique activities available here such as the wonderful museums and the rich oil and mineral history as well as the renewable energy sources deeply entrenched in the West Texas story.
Stephen Dennis: I’m looking forward to embracing a new community and helping to guide the revitalization of the downtown area. West Texas is an exciting place with an unlimited future, and I look forward to growing within the community. The ability to help create and build from the ground up is an exciting proposition.
2. How do you think past experiences have prepared you for this role?
MW: I have had the privilege of working for some exceptional hotel companies over the years. My experience in sales and marketing and also operations has allowed me to come in as the first employee of the hotel to manage, and sometimes create, the processes for pre-opening and setting up the hotel for success. That happens by working closely with ownership, the local community and neighboring businesses, the City and our hospitality organizations to successfully promote the new product and get the word out as swiftly and accurately as possible.
SD: With a diverse background in business hotels and independent luxury, as well as branded hotels and resorts, my past experience should be uniquely positioned to help address the needs of all those heading to Odessa Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. It’s important to have that varied experience in order to help business travelers enjoy a seamless remote working experience and also ensure our leisure guests feel at home when they are here. Currently, one of the significant benchmarks we look to in measuring success in hospitality is TripAdvisor rankings. It’s a key measure of guest satisfaction and where many travelers look prior to booking a stay. In the past, I’ve been tasked to increase these rankings with success, so I know that starts with building an outstanding team focused on delivering on a top-notch guest service initiative. Also, fortunately for us, this product offers a suite of amenities, services and design that is new to the Odessa market. So it’s important for us to make a great impression out of the gate and ensure that we meet the high expectations of Marriott’s loyal clientele, as well as impress those looking for a more elevated place to stay when visiting our community.
3. How did you get into the industry?
MW: It was a fluke. While attending Cornell as a student in the liberal arts school, I secured a part time job as a server in the faculty club at the Hotel School. That led to additional hours in the banquets, front desk and catering departments. By the time I reached my senior year, I realized that I very much enjoyed the hospitality industry and managed to secure some interviews with recruiters coming to the Hotel School. I was offered three positions from three different companies and decided to join Hyatt Hotels as a corporate trainee. I have not looked back since.
SD: After traveling with a baseball team for 12 years, I achieved near “professional guest” status which allowed me to experience all levels of hotels and their offerings. Following the sports-related phase of my life, I became interested in the intricacies of the hospitality industry and what really made for a memorable stay. I wanted to do something that made a difference to people using the education I received as a frequent hotel guest. Hospitality provides the opportunity to welcome guests from all backgrounds into my world, and it’s important to me to make each and every stay less transactional and more personal. My favorite stories to tell involve guests throughout the years where I was allowed to participate in their happiness or to help them in a time of need such as enhancing special occasions with surprises, making a child’s stay more comfortable before a surgery or just getting to know our guests on a personal level.
4. What are you hoping to achieve in your new role?
MW: Though I have transitioned several properties, this is officially my first hotel opening. I want this to be such a successful opening that it becomes a blueprint for future Marriott and Aimbridge properties. In addition, I’d life to be part of the success of bringing in new business to the city and re-energizing the downtown environment to become “The” West Texas City to visit and hold meetings. We already have a Four Diamond level of product unavailable anywhere else in the area, so it’s our job to employ an intense focus on detail, combined with an intuitive service philosophy – that is the ability to anticipate and fulfill guest needs to ensure we deliver a memorable experience. My goal is to wow Marriott’s loyal clientele that are accustomed to a high level of service and upscale amenities, while also attracting a customer who may be new to the brand.
SD: The Odessa Marriott Hotel and Conference Center is more than a hotel and meeting space. The project serves as the catalyst for a $77 million, full-scale renaissance of downtown Odessa, to create a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly entertainment district featuring the best of the City’s dining, shopping and cultural attractions. It will be the area’s first AAA Four Diamond property, and I want to deliver on our promise to bring a level of hospitality and upscale amenities previously unknown to the area.
5. What do you enjoy most about the industry?
MW: I love it all. I enjoy being of service to our guests and to our employees and exceeding expectations. I enjoy the strategy of winning the race. I love the opportunity to train and develop aspiring individuals who want to grow within the industry. And I truly enjoy when I can bring a smile to the face of a guest, a client and an employee and make their day.
SD: I enjoy people. I enjoy commerce. And I enjoy helping to resolve issues and create memorable experiences, which in turn builds loyal fans. Whether the guest is in town on business or pleasure, for medical reasons or for sports travel, legal issues or looking to relocate to the community, the hotel provides an opportunity to interact with the players and provide a fantastic stay experience while they are our guests. Having a guest express appreciation and joy for a great meal or a spectacular stay is the incentive I enjoy the most. We are in the business of hospitality, so knowing we succeeded in that is the greatest reward.