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.”
Lodging Econometrics has tracked the hotel industry since 1998. Its global database includes new-hotel pipelines as well as renovations and brand conversions. Hotel franchisers once eager to launch new brands are focused on converting existing hotels because it’s a faster way to recover revenue lost to the COVID-19 pandemic than through new construction. In Episode 346, Lodging Leaders explores the increasing number of conversions in the U.S. hotel industry and what owners and operators need to consider before repositioning an asset.
In the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., financiers anticipated a swell of distressed hotel businesses. Some raised rescue funds to respond to what they thought was a pending crisis. Though there are financial rescues taking place, the level of such activity is far below what industry advisers and fund managers expected. Commercial real estate investors positioned to act in the early days of the pandemic held off and are now just beginning to unleash their cash hoards totaling billions of dollars. Episode 345 of Lodging Leaders podcast explores the state of capital investment in the hotel industry.