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.”
Nicolas Graf, associate dean, clinical professor and chair of New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, will soon unveil the school’s new Hospitality Innovation Hub. Departure from the norms of doing business is key to the post-pandemic survival and success of the hospitality industry, says Graf. Companies that offer flexibility in thought and practice among employees will go a long way in leading the industry’s post-pandemic recovery. Episode 331 of Lodging Leaders explores what it will take for owners, operators and others invested in the industry to attract and retain bright young talent who can help build modern and sustainable hotel business models.
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