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Interview: The Three Women Behind Las Vegas’ First Boutique Hotel

@gregoates

Jul 23, 2014 10:00 am

Skift Take

Caesars Entertainment is promoting The Cromwell as a new hotel experience in Las Vegas focusing on personal service, while leveraging the all-female C-suite as industry disruptors and role models for working women.

— Greg Oates

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Caesars Entertainment

The Cromwell executive team: Eileen Moore, Karie Hall and Melissa Fielding Caesars Entertainment


Positioned as the first standalone boutique hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, The Cromwell opened in May next to the new High Roller observation wheel and LINQ shopping, dining and entertainment district, all owned by Caesars Entertainment.

And the fact that three female executives are at the helm running this hotel in a city known for its old boys club mentality has garnered almost as much buzz as the hotel opening itself.

Adding to that, Food Network chef Giada de Laurentiis opened the first solo female chef-owned restaurant on the Strip here.

The 188-room Cromwell is the latest of the new breed of Las Vegas hotels placing a greater priority on lifestyle pursuits versus gaming, first established with the opening of Vdara in 2009 and The Cosmopolitan in 2010. Due to flat growth in gaming, Las Vegas hotels are aggressively diversifying product and marketing to target a new consumer base more interested in five-star sushi than five-card stud.

The big differentiator with The Crowmell is its size in relation to neighboring hotels like the goliath 7,000-room Palazzo/Venetian complex nearby. Caesars’ PR machine is promoting the small room count as a more personalized hotel experience for both leisure and corporate travelers who may have overlooked Las Vegas before.

We spoke with the three executives for some insight into that, but we were more interested about how the women perceive themselves as role models for Caesars employees and working moms everywhere.

They are: Eileen Moore, regional president of The Cromwell, Flamingo Las Vegas & The LINQ Hotel & Casino; Karie Hall, VP/GM of The Cromwell; and Melissa Fielding, director of luxury hotel operations, The Cromwell.

Skift: How is Las Vegas evolving as a tourist destination in 2014?

Eileen Moore: We’re seeing in Las Vegas that the market is trending toward the younger affluent customer coming to visit us, as well as the international customer. About 20% of our visitors into Las Vegas now are actually international guests. And what we’re seeing from this younger demographic and international customer is a much more attractive spending pattern into things like retail, spa, food and beverage, and nightlife. So certainly what we’re seeing is a trend into those aspects of the hospitality offering a little bit away from strictly the gaming side.

Karie Hall: From a property standpoint, what we’re seeing from our guests is that they want a more personalized experience. They don’t necessarily want to walk into a mass-market property per se, and get into a line to check-in, a line for the buffet, a line for a snack. They really want that personalized experience. They’re people who know who they are, they’re more hip, more youthful. We strongly believe The Cromwell speaks to that….

It’s about getting to know the guest even before they get on-property, and developing our loyalty program where we know what their spend is, but we also know who they are, and what they like to spend on hotel, nightlife, food and beverage, and gaming as well.

Skift: What can you tell us about the response so far to The Cromwell during the first few opening months?

Eileen Moore: We’ve got the highest service awards in the [Caesars Entertainment] company out of 40 hotels in the world coming out of The Cromwell hotel, so we have been able to deliver a higher level of service right from the start. We’ve had a really strong response. We’re running one of the highest RevPars for any Caesars property in the city, and we’re sold out for most weekends, and we’re building our midweek business as we speak.

Our [Giada] restaurant has the number one reservations in the city of all of our restaurants, and one of the highest ratings on Yelp in the market, again within 30 days of opening. We’re also in the top 20 on TripAdvisor, again unheard of for a brand new property and a new brand no one has ever heard of.

Skift: Have you encountered many challenges specifically as female executives in a male-dominated industry such as gaming?

Eileen Moore: I can only speak from my perspective but for me it’s been wonderful. I haven’t had any major challenges. In fact, more than 50% of our employees are women, and more than 50% of our customers across every level, VIP and otherwise, are women. And so, to come into this role as president, and have this amazing amount of support, has been phenomenal.

There are two other female presidents on the Strip and they phoned and invited me to lunch to say, “Hey, what are some things we can work on together? What are some of the changing demographics we’re seeing?” So I know it sounds very Pollyanna, but I haven’t had any real challenges, and in fact, I’ve had a warm welcome.

Karie Hall: I don’t know if I’ve ever felt hindered, or that there’s been a challenge being female. I think there’s a challenge in being an executive in these buildings. One of the things that Melissa and I agree upon, we love having Eileen in the organization, and particularly within our building because we feel like that creates more opportunities for women.

And also, we’re waiting for the day when it’s not such a talking point that you’re a female executive, just that you’re an executive that holds that role. That’s one of the things we look forward to the most. As much as we love talking about this and the property, the more women who get into these roles, the less interesting it becomes.

Skift: What types of comments have you heard about your success as female executives?

Eileen Moore: The number one comment I’ve received, because I’m also the president at the Flamingo, which is the longest running casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip, is “Finally.” And that’s from employees and guests, and it’s from men and women. They just really enjoy seeing a woman at the helm, and look forward to the changes and the different things I might bring to the table.

Melissa Fielding: It’s interesting, I’ve never looked at myself, like, “Oh, I’m a woman, I can’t do this, or I’m not going to get this job.” I’ve never thought that way in my life. And maybe I just live in a different world than everyone else, but I’ve never thought that I was raised that way, or that it was ever an issue.

I mean, I’ve lived in Las Vegas for 17 years, and I just keep driving at whatever my goal is, and I just keep on trying. And I guess if I don’t get something, I don’t say, “Oh, I’m a woman, that’s why I didn’t get it.” I think, “Oh, there’s skills and things I need to work on in order to get to that level.” And I’m never afraid to ask, “Why didn’t I get this?”

Skift: Do you perceive yourselves as role models?

Karie Hall: I think the three of us all agree that it’s nice to be considered a role model, and we want to make sure that we are great role models for the women that are coming up behind us. But I don’t necessarily know that we think it’s as extraordinary that we’re in the position that we are because we’re female. It’s just extraordinary for us because of how hard we’ve worked and what we’ve done to accomplish it.

Eileen Moore: I feel a lot of respect for the generation of women in front of us, a lot of women who were the first in everything. I can say I’m definitely proud of my accomplishments, but I’ve never been the first woman. So I feel like we are tipping the scale, and that it isn’t as unique anymore, which is a great thing to see.

Skift: Do you think other people view you as role models?

Eileen Moore: I definitely do, and I will tell you too as a working mother that is a unique aspect particularly for our employees. I think it has been neat for them to see that as a mother, I am able to really focus on being a great parent, as well as a great leader at work. And that’s something that I get asked a lot about: “How do you make that work, particularly in the hospitality industry with long hours and a different calendar and schedule?”

For myself it’s actually been interesting to do things with my son on different hours when many other folks who are working would not be able to do that. So for example, I’ll be able to take Mondays off on a regular basis and go to school with him and read to his class. That’s something that maybe someone in a typical career would not have the opportunity to do on a regular basis.

Karie Hall: I share that with Eileen. I have three small girls, so I definitely consider myself a role model. I hope to be a great role model at work, but also at home and showing my girls that you can have a great career and you can have a family. There is a give and take, there are certain tradeoffs, but again we don’t work traditional hours so I have the ability to take days off that are untraditional, and come in later. So I’ll go on a field trip with my girls and come in later in the evening, and still have that same dedication to the job, but I have a better balance for me.

And I tell you, I get quite a few questions about having a career and raising three kids, but you figure that out, and you do what’s best for your family. That’s the role modeling that I like to do, to tell people that there’s not a perfect answer for everything.

Skift: Do you think there’s an opportunity, especially on the corporate group side, where you could share your experiences with younger female executives?

Eileen Moore: Absolutely. All three of us are currently active on panels, whether it’s through the American Gaming Association, our own women leadership affinity group through Caesars, and also personal volunteering that we do. So yes, absolutely.

Karie Hall: I think we have done some of that. I don’t know if that’s formalized by Caesars Entertainment, but I personally have been on a few panels during educational sessions that were booked through our meetings team and through our convention staff.

I was a speaker for a women’s transportation group. It was a women-owned transportation group here in Las Vegas, and I spoke to them about being a female in the industry, and understanding what it was like to be in a very male dominated industry. And with transportation, obviously that’s a more male dominated industry as well.

They were intrigued to know that we have quite a few women within Las Vegas that run properties, and executives within major organizations. They really wanted to hear about that and just share stories about how we’re evolving as an industry, and some of the parallels between us. It was a very interesting for me.

Skift: Do you think the fact that the three of you are female has helped drive business to The Cromwell?

Karie Hall: Well it’s certainly got us a little bit of press (laughing).

Eileen Moore: I would say it’s definitely driving some real business outcomes, and I think having Giada’s first restaurant—and she’s one of the most recognizable people in the industry—certainly helps. She’s the first female solo celebrity chef on the Las Vegas Strip, so again we’ve had some unique faces in terms of this project that I think are very attractive to guests.

We recently, Karie and I, traveled to New Orleans and hosted a group of our top female customers to let them know about all of the developments we have in Las Vegas with the High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel, The Cromwell, and our attention to personalized service there, as well as some other new developments in terms of shopping and entertainment.

And I can tell you, we specifically measured the output from that event with those guests and it was extremely profitable.

Greg Oates covers hotel/tourism development and travel brand media. email/twitter

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