Juan Mera is general manager of North Point Hospitality Group’s tri-brand Marriott hotel in downtown Nashville.
Taking the job was a challenge that Mera knew was a rare career opportunity. And it made him break a promise to his wife.
Mera is a native of Lima, Peru. He came to the U.S. nearly 30 years ago when he was in his early 20s.
Two weeks after setting foot in America, he landed a job as a bellman at Canyon Ranch Resort in Tucson.
“What was interesting is the bellman job required the candidate to be able to drive a van to the airport and pick up guests,” Mera said. “I did not have a driver’s license; I’d never driven before. They hired me anyway. I was a true bellman because I was stationed at the property and carried guests’ bags.”
About a month into the job, Mera was placing luggage in a back room and he overheard the front-office manager say they needed a night auditor. He asked for the job and got it.
He stayed at Canyon Ranch for eight years, working his way up to front office manager.
“It was a lot of hard work,” Mera said. “You have to love what you do. I fell in love with hospitality the day that I started.”
Mera went on to work for two more hotel companies, eventually becoming a general manager. Along the way, he met Whip Triplett, who is now executive vice president at North Point Hospitality Group.
Triplett recruited Mera for North Point Hospitality 15 years ago as general manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Mera went on to manage the company’s newly constructed SpringHill Suites in the Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta. At the time, it was the largest SpringHill Suites in the country.
Over his career, Mera has opened eight hotels. The time-consuming job usually requires relocating to a new community.
A few years ago, Mera and his wife, Harumi, had settled in Savannah where Mera managed three of North Point Hospitality’s hotels. He had promised Harumi no more moves.
Soon after, he learned North Point Hospitality planned to build the tri-brand in Nashville. The project needed a seasoned general manager. “I told my wife, this has never been done before. She told me I had to take the job.”
Two viruses emerged in the U.S. this year – COVID-19 and society’s backlash against racism. The coronavirus pandemic forced hotels to close or drastically cut back on their workforces as occupancy plummeted to unprecedented lows. And America’s streets resounded with the voices of citizens protesting racism as businesses began to respond by promising new and better commitments toward diversity, inclusion and equality in hiring and promotion. In Episode 288 of Lodging Leaders podcast, we explore the issues hotels are facing in bringing back laid-off workers and recruiting new employees in the midst of a health pandemic that seems to have no end and society’s desperate call for Corporate America to get serious about ending systemic racism.
Extended-stay hotels are weathering the coronavirus crisis better than their transient cousins, according to reports. The Highland Group’s half-year report shows economy and mid-priced extended-stay hotels are faring better than upscale extended-stay accommodations. Second-quarter earnings reports from companies such as Extended Stay America prove the resiliency of the sector, especially when sales teams shift their focus to new prospects such as college students, leisure travelers who value the kitchen and essential workers in it for the long haul. Long Live Lodging examines what gives extended-stay its muscle in a weak economy. This report is part of our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus crisis and its impact on the hotel industry.