Mike Massari, Caesars Entertainment
Mike Massari, Chief Sales Officer at Caesars Entertainment
Pivotal Moments: It all comes down to people. I started in the catering business. Then, I decided to really make hospitality a career after I graduated college and met my wife. She said she would only marry me if I got a real job, because working nights and weekends wouldn’t synch with her career as a teacher. I am probably the only person who ever got into the hotel business to work fewer hours.
Another key moment was when I met Chris Meyer, CEM, CMP (now vice president of global business sales with Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority), when he was opening The Venetian. He convinced me to move to Las Vegas from Philadelphia. It shaped who I am as a person.
Role of the Hospitality Sector in the World: Meetings and events drive growth in every way, shape and form. Nothing good ever happens without a meeting. Meetings define society and the world—and shape who we are and change the trajectory of humanity. They are critical.
One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: I ask a lot of questions. Everyone has a vision of what they want to accomplish. Our job is to pull that vision out and then try to create it for them.
Steve Enselein, Hyatt
Steve Enselein, Senior Vice President of Events at Hyatt
Pivotal Moments: Growing up as one of seven kids, we weren’t able to vacation very often. No let me rephrase that, not at all. The lack of these types of experiences as I grew up made me think they were exotic and drew me to this industry.
Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: The hospitality sector helps bring people around the world together—to celebrate, educate, nurture and grow. This industry provides experiences to share with family and friends, and creates memories for a lifetime. It allows people to experience new cultures, food and drink—many times without even traveling—and motivates them to see things differently and to experiment. The hospitality industry also provides opportunities for the people who work in it. It offers opportunities to learn and grow, to challenge them, and to provide for their families. It creates a lifetime of friendships and relationships. Simply put, the hospitality sector makes the world a better place every day.
One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: At Hyatt, our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best. This applies to our guests, our colleagues and, most definitely, our planners. We believe if we help planners be their best, they can create meaningful experiences. We all know planners are pulled in 100 different directions at every event. Attendee expectations continue to increase while budgets are staying the same. The booking window is shorter, and events are being planned on an abbreviated timeline. The best way to care for planners and allow them to be “moment makers” in the eyes of their event attendees is to make it easier for them to do their job. We also enhance the planning and meeting experience through technology tools, including Meetings on Demand, a platform that allows planners to book and plan a meeting anywhere, at any time. Our Event Concierge App allows planners to make requests directly to the hotel without disrupting the meeting.
We believe our care for planners and their attendees begins with our people. This includes everyone from the dedicated sales and events teams who help planners coordinate and organize their events to the talented culinary and service teams who bring the dream alive. Even our technology teams play a role by creating tools that make it easier for planners to do their job.
Phyllis A. James, MGM Resorts International
Phyllis A. James, J.D., Chief Diversity and Corporate Responsibility Officer at MGM Resorts International
Pivotal Moments: My current role is an outgrowth of my career-long advocacy in the legal profession, promoting integration of women and persons of color as successful lawyers in major corporate law firms, and my work at MGM Resorts is as inside legal counsel to the Board of Directors Diversity & Inclusion (“D&I”) Committee. My role gradually expanded to encompass execution and/or oversight over not only D&I in internal company culture and people-related systems and practices, but also incorporation of D&I into all core business operations, and supervision of other social aspects of our company’s broader corporate responsibility platform, including community stakeholder relationships, philanthropy and other community investment.
Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: MGM Resorts International is a global entertainment company with national and international locations featuring best-in-class hotels and casinos, state-of-the art meetings and conference spaces, incredible live and theatrical entertainment experiences, and an extensive array of restaurant, nightlife and retail offerings. We create immersive, iconic experiences through a suite of Las Vegas-inspired brands. The MGM Resorts portfolio encompasses 27 unique hotel offerings, including some of the most recognizable resort brands in the industry. The company is expanding throughout the U.S. and around the world, developing MGM Springfield in Massachusetts and MGM Cotai in Macau, and debuting the first international Bellagio-branded hotel in Shanghai.
One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: MGM Resorts is a member of communities throughout the world. As such, we have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to drive economic growth and contribute to the places in which we live. We are dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion, investing locally and protecting the environment in each of the communities that have welcomed us. Running our business with integrity and CSR practices is how we create positive experiences for our customers. Our philosophy around inclusion extends to our guests, suppliers, business partners and members of our community. Our standard for exceptional guest service demands that we engage and entertain every one of our guests throughout their visit. We also work hard at listening to our partners and meeting planners. We work with them to find community activities and environmentally friendly solutions that suit their business needs.
Scott Hermes, Irvine Company Resort Properties
Scott Hermes, CMP, President of Irvine Company Resort Properties (The Resort at Pelican Hill, Fashion Island Hotel and Hotel Irvine)
Pivotal Moments: Initially, I wanted to pursue a career as a meeting professional, but a degree in meeting management was not available at the time. As a result, I attended a college with the closest degree, hospitality management. Upon graduating, I went to work in a hotel and never looked back. Early in my career I was promoted to a larger role prematurely. I’ll admit it; I was not a very good leader and was told so by my team. That “intervention” made me stand up and listen to what needed to change to become a better leader.
Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: The hospitality industry is about delivering experiences for our guests. Our teams are the secret sauce that bring everything to life. We need to create a culture that empowers them and instills pride in being the best they can be.
One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: Planners’ needs change and evolve, so we continuously seek ways to provide them with what they want, when they want it. Since the Irvine Company is an independent hotel owner and operator, we can easily adapt and partner with individual planner’s needs in support of attaining meeting goals.
Frank Passanante, Hilton Worldwide
Frank Passanante, Senior Vice President at Hilton Worldwide Sales for the Americas; member of Meetings Mean Business Coalition/U.S. Travel Association; 2019 board member of PCMA
Pivotal Moments: I lead our sales professionals, who build strong and meaningful relationships with customers across the United States, Canada and Latin America. Prior to accepting this role, I had the opportunity to lead our above-property group sales organization through an initiative to improve the quantity and quality of time our sales professionals devote to our customers.
Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: First, we provide welcoming environments to both travelers and locals, at hotels, restaurants, meeting spaces or any other hospitality venue they find themselves. The industry also shapes the world on a larger scale. At Hilton, with our nearly 100-year legacy of spreading the light and warmth of hospitality, we have seen firsthand the power that hotels have in transforming local environments. They bring an influx of jobs, visitors and industries to destinations, spurring economic growth and development and increasing quality of life in the communities we serve. We are a business serving people, and our team members extend their passion for hospitality beyond our hotel walls every day.
One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: As the world’s leading hospitality company, nothing is more important than listening to our guests’ feedback and innovating transformative offerings that equip meeting professionals to deliver exceptional experiences. One of my favorite examples is Hilton’s Meet with Purpose, which we created to help meeting professionals address the growing desire for wellness in the meetings and events space. Through Meet with Purpose, we help planners think outside the box and wow their attendees with innovative meeting breakouts, such as Puppies & Ice Cream and Yoga & Yogurt. These breakouts make meetings more productive, meaningful and memorable, while helping planners better meet the needs of meeting attendees.
Amy Pfeiffer, Disney Meetings & Events
Amy Pfeiffer, Director, Convention Sales & Services at Disney Meetings & Events
Pivotal Moments: Right out of college I joined the Canton, Ohio, CVB (now Visit Canton). I quickly realized I was drawn to the personal connections that are at the heart of this industry. That was reinforced in jobs I had with the CVB of Greater Cleveland (Positively Cleveland) and with Hilton. Connections I made in those roles led to an opportunity to join the Walt Disney World Resort sales team in 1997. Disney had been a part of my life since I was 8 years old and first experienced the Magic Kingdom on a vacation with my family. I couldn’t pass up the chance to work for this globally respected brand that I was so personally connected to.
Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: One of the most important things we do is connect people from all over the world in impactful and meaningful ways. We create environments and experiences that bring together people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to learn from each other and solve problems affecting business, governments and the world. That’s a pretty big deal. Meetings and events also foster creativity and understanding. There’s no better way to get a new perspective on things than to step out of your day-to-day and travel to a new city or country to share ideas and experiences. That has benefits on every level—personal and professional.
People also tend to forget the enormous role the hospitality sector plays in supporting national and local economies. Meetings, events and travel create jobs, generate revenue and expand tax bases.
One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: Disney has been partnering with meeting professionals to create incredible experiences for more than 60 years! During that time, we’ve focused on one thing—bringing meetings and events to life through inspired storytelling and unique experiences. We focus on creativity and imagination to help bring messages and ideas to life in an immersive way. We have a whole discovery process we work with clients on—to help identify the experiences they want to create, what they want attendees to learn and how they want attendees to feel. That process often helps planners see their own events differently. And it creates a shared understanding and knowledge that forms the foundation for executing every aspect of the event, from the big stuff to the smallest detail. It’s an important step in how we transform meetings into something extraordinary and memorable.
Dan Surette, Omni Hotels & Resorts
Dan Surette, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Omni Hotels & Resorts
Pivotal Moments: I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was in high school. My mother was the one who pointed out that since I loved being around people, I should consider the travel industry. She was right. I was fortunate that I found my thing, and I have never once regretted getting into the business. I am so excited about where the industry is headed and what is next.
Role of Hospitality Sector in the World: We connect people on their travel journey with friends, family and for business. Travelers might even be reconnecting with themselves to recharge. Hotels are here year-round, day and night, to help make that happen.
One Thing You Do to Help Planners Create Brilliant Experiences: I empower our teams to listen, be problem-solvers and be great partners so we can understand the true needs of planners. I then task them with exceeding that expectation. If I am too prescriptive, the entrepreneurial problem-solving is quashed. A procedure, process or rule doesn’t deliver wow.