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An Interview with Chris Flatt, Executive Vice President-Hotel Sales & Marketing, Wynn Las Vegas

EDITORS’ NOTE

Chris Flatt has held her current post since 2002. Prior to this, she was Vice President of Sales for Bellagio from 1997.

COMPANY BRIEF

Wynn and Encore Las Vegas (wynnlasvegas.com)are two luxury hotel and casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. The iconic travel destinations are operated by international resort developer Wynn Resorts, recipient of more Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Awards than any other independent hotel company in the world. Wynn Las Vegas opened on April 28, 2005 and has been recognized as the best resort in Nevada on Condé Nast Traveler’s “Gold List” for five consecutive years. The resort features 2,714 lavish guest rooms and suites, more than 111,000 square feet of state-of-the-art casino space, 14 casual and fine dining restaurants, a spa and salon, and an on-site Ferrari and Maserati dealership and 18-hole golf course. Wynn Las Vegas is also home to “Le Rêve – The Dream,” an award-winning theatrical experience blending aerial acrobatics, provocative choreography, powerful performances, and elaborate effects. Encore, an expansion of Wynn Las Vegas, opened on December 22, 2008. Featuring an additional 2,034 all-suite accommodations, a 72,000-square-foot casino, five restaurants, and a spa and salon, Encore is located adjacent to Wynn Las Vegas. Combined, the two resorts boast four distinct nightlife and day club experiences, approximately 283,000 square feet of meeting space, and 98,000 square feet of retail space.

What is it that makes this property so unique?

Mr. Wynn, the brand itself, and our having the opportunity to build the types of buildings we have provides an experience for our guests that is beyond what anyone else has been able to do.

I have been with Mr. Wynn for 28 years. I had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and to build and open properties along the way. A lot of time and effort goes into studying each property from the guest perspective. This attention to detail is what sets us apart.

Wynn and Encore Las Vegas

Is it tough to differentiate in the Las Vegas market and is it essential to have a strong brand name?

Having the Wynn name on the building is a key differentiator. We built many of the properties that we compete against now. Las Vegas has continued to reinvent itself and as soon as we’ve created something new, we immediately begin working to create the next best thing.

Las Vegas is a unique market and we have the opportunity to do things here that can’t be done elsewhere. We can spend the kind of money on these properties that, in most places, would not make sense.

How broad is the customer base for a property like Wynn?

It’s definitely top-tier, but when you have a 4,700-room hotel, you also have to attract a broad group. We have a mix of business: our convention business is a big part of what we do, but we also attract a lot of leisure travelers and those who come to enjoy our casino. We also attract direct business through our call center and website.

So we have a variety of customers, but all are looking for a luxury experience. Customers have high expectations of us.

How important is your corporate business to the property’s success?

It is our foundation – we book corporate business years out in many cases. At Wynn, our natural customers tend to be more corporate. We are focused on making sure that those customers want to continue to be with us. Our repeat business in the convention segment is very high.

What size convention do you cater to?

We handle everything, from a small 25-person meeting to a large 3,000-person meeting, and we pay equal attention to each of those. We have an advantage between Wynn and Encore in that the two hotels connect, allowing us to connect the meeting space, which is great for larger groups. We also have different levels of meeting room products that we can provide our attendees from a standard room up to the board or CEO level.

From product to service, the people that work here take pride in their jobs and in making sure every guest has a perfect experience.

How closely do you coordinate the business of the two properties?

When it comes to how we connect our two properties, we operate as one. The employees here are attuned to everything that goes on in our building, from Mr. Wynn to our President to the line-level employees that are caring for our guests.

When you deal with these large buildings, it takes a lot of effort and coordination to make things happen flawlessly.

How challenging is it to find the talent you need with all the competition in Las Vegas?

We have a lot of experienced people who have been in the business for years. We are focused on promoting from within, so we grow our teams organically. This has been a benefit to us because, when we do bring people up from within, they already understand our culture.

It’s important to find people who truly care about what our customers receive in terms of our service and commitment. People who, when our customers meet them, can instantly establish a feeling of trust.

As our guests share what they’re looking to achieve during their visit, we will be right alongside them, making sure that happens. We want to understand what their goals are and we want to accomplish those goals.

We partner with our customers and make sure that we deliver on everything they’re looking for. Finding people who take personal pride in accomplishing this is really important.

Is diversity a key part of the culture?

As a company, we have always been very focused on diversity. We have quite a few women on the executive team. There is generally a lot of opportunity for women and minorities in this industry.

Are you still amazed to see what Las Vegas has become?

I walk into this building every morning and I’m always amazed by all that is going on – it makes me very proud every time I look around and see, touch, and feel everything that our customers have the opportunity to enjoy here; all the things we offer at Wynn leads to amazing experiences.

There is so much to do in Las Vegas that you can’t see, do, or experience in any other city, and it’s only growing. We have weathered the recession and business is back. We’re all seemingly doing well and, based on the new projects coming into the city, it’s going to be great for Las Vegas.

In the early days, could you have imagined you would have spent your career here?

Once I began to work with Mr. Wynn, and to understand our company and culture, I realized I could never go anywhere else and, as a result, I have had the chance to be a part of some of the amazing things we have done.•

 

 

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What can guests expect from the upcoming rooms renovation?

This is the most significant and comprehensive rooms renovation at The Peninsula Chicago since the hotel opened 14 years ago. The change will be dramatic in terms of the overall feeling of the rooms.

The new Peninsula Chicago guestroom is a step forward in the brand’s standard of immersive luxury experience. The design’s effect of enlarging the proportions of the room through a re-working layout and the use of high-quality built-in elements creates a more spacious guest room. Stunning city views become more prominent. Opportunities to delight the guest are present throughout, from the beauty of a silk floral art piece that is a focal point in every guest room and suite to an unmatched variety of amenities and comforts, and thoughtful and intuitive technology.

There will be two Samsung tablets in each room (and three in the suites). This tablet technology, which can convert to 11 languages, will allow the guest the ability to operate various features of the guestroom, i.e. temperature and lighting, as well as hotel services, room service, local attractions, etc., all with one touch. Telephones will include VOIP for complimentary long distance and international calls, and there will be a multi-charger station located bedside. Televisions will be 55-inch in guest rooms and 65-inch in suites.

We look forward to introducing our guests to the new room product starting in the second quarter of 2015.

Would you highlight your suite offering and how do those suites help differentiate the property?

We have 339 guestrooms, including 83 suites, of which we have seven different suite options.

Guests like the variety of suite options at The Peninsula Chicago, as well as the number of suites we have in the most popular categories. The Junior and Deluxe Suites are perfect for families with pull-out sofas. Executive Suites are ideal for couples or single travelers. Guests love the corner location with bountiful, natural light.

The one-of-a-kind Peninsula Suite is 3,645 square feet with stunning views of Lake Michigan, and Chicago and Michigan Avenues. This one-bedroom suite, which can be converted to a three-bedroom suite, features a large entry foyer, generous formal living room with a baby grand piano and fireplace, large marble bathroom with picture window over the whirlpool bathtub, a private workout room, additional powder room, dressing area, formal dining room with seating for 10, an office, and a pantry kitchen with private entrance for staff, as well as a family room with a wet bar, 60-inch television, DVD player, and a casual dining table for four, which is ideal for intimate gatherings. The Peninsula Suite offers a private 2,000-square-foot terrace with amazing Chicago skyline views and an outdoor Jacuzzi. There is a private entrance/exit from the bedroom of The Peninsula Suite. This luxuriously appointed and finely decorated suite is complete with state-of-the-art electronic equipment.

We have two Grand Suites, which are two-bedroom suites with a large entry foyer, large living area showcasing stunning views, two marble bathrooms, one with a whirlpool bathtub, an additional powder room, two dressing areas, dining room for six guests, study, and kitchen. These 2,561-square-foot suites feature a home theatre and stereo in the master bedroom and parlor with views overlooking Michigan Avenue, Lake Michigan, and the historic Water Tower Park.

What makes your food and beverage offerings work so well and how important is it to engage the local community?

Each food and beverage offering is a unique concept and our options appeal to the local community in addition to hotel guests; 80 percent of our restaurant business comes from the local market, which maintains more than a solid customer base for our dining venues. It’s critical to involve and appeal to the local community for a restaurant to be successful.

Would you provide an overview of your spa facilities at The Peninsula Chicago?

The Peninsula Spa is located on the top two floors of the hotel with great views of the city and lakefront, and offers eight treatment rooms and suites, and a half-Olympic indoor swimming pool and outdoor sun terrace. The use of our spa and fitness center is complimentary to all hotel guests. In addition, Pilates, yoga, and strength-conditioning classes are offered, as well as personal trainers. The fitness center in particular features numerous free-motion weight equipment and floor-to-ceiling windows with amazing views of Lake Michigan so the view is quite inspiring for those early morning workouts.

What do you look for when hiring talent?

We look for people who take a genuine interest in the comfort and care of others. They have to think on their feet, problem solve, anticipate needs, and work well in a team setting. We look for people who smile, have good eye contact, and are warm, friendly, and caring individuals. While education and previous experience is a plus, personality is more important. We can teach the standards and position requirements, but we can’t teach the innate ability to genuinely care for others.•

 

 

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