Roger Amidon has served as general manager of Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa since 2012. Marriott International named him, “Franchised General Manager of the Year,” for its Eastern Region Full Service Hotels/Resorts in 2015. Amidon is responsible for the successful operation of Palm Beach County’s only AAA Four-Diamond all-suite beachfront hotel, comprises 193 rooms and boasts a prime location on its own private beach on Singer Island, and amenities including the acclaimed 3800 Ocean restaurant and the Condé Nast award-winning SiSpa.
THE AMIDON STORY —
How I got into the hospitality industry was a fluke and I share this story with our hosts at every orientation. After graduating college, my high school buddy, who was living in Miami at the time, called to see if I would be interested in being roommates in Florida. It didn’t take me long to say yes, after growing up in Syracuse, NY. I relocated and started out working for a pool service in Miami waiting to land a position at 7 Eleven. I thought free slushies and hot dogs were great benefits!
7 Eleven actually turned down my application and that was a life changing moment for me. My roommate said, “why don’t you apply at the Marriott Miami where I’m working?” He was working in the housekeeping department as a houseman. So, I went to human resources and applied. The HR Manager asked me what position I would be interested in applying for and I stated, “I’d like to be a houseman like my friend.” She said, “I think you’d be better suited at the Front Desk.” I asked, “what do they do?” She said “Well, they greet our guests and check them in and out of the hotel.” I replied, “I definitely can do that!” And the rest as they say is history.
I will always remember what Roger Dow, former Executive Vice President of Marketing for Marriott International said – “Starting out in the hospitality business at entry level is the first step to realizing the American Dream.” And I am the perfect example of that.
You wake up in the morning what’s the driving passion?
I run 3-5 miles every morning and I run my own executive committee meeting in my mind as I’m running. It helps me plan out my day and think of how my hosts can make an impact in service levels, how can we generate top line sales and how my team can deliver return on investment to our ownership.
The hospitality / lodging industries throughout America and even internationally are under great pressure to constantly adapt as called upon by customers. What strategies are you following as GM at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa to only stay relevant but also cutting edge?
The Marriott Brand is very instrumental in keeping us on the cutting edge. I, myself, stay connected with Palm Beach County’s luxury resort brands to acquire new and innovative ideas that we can apply to our property. My wife Tina and I travel extensively, both domestic and International, to experience exceptional levels of service that I can bring back to our team and keep us up to date on the latest travel trends. An example of something that we do here at our property during the summer months for our guests is we “cool down the sand throughout the day” so the guests don’t burn their feet walking to the ocean. Our sand in Florida can get up to 115 degrees in the summer!
Palm Beach County is clearly among the most recognizable locations in America — most notably during the winter months when visitors flock to the area. You were Executive Director of the Tourist Development Council and Chairman of the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau. How has the area evolved in terms of its overall standing and presentation over the last 25 years?
Florida is no longer known as a retirement destination. The county’s multitude of tourism assets offer travelers the best of everything when it comes to a vacation destination. There are so many things to do here in Palm Beach County. In addition to all the aquatic sports, the county has numerous cultural attractions, unique eco-friendly adventures and of course some of the best golf courses in the country. Thanks to Henry Flagler, Palm Beach was America’s first resort destination. His development of the east coast train to Palm Beach helped bring tourists to the Island and his two hotels – Royal Poinciana and what we know now as The Breakers.
Many leading destinations in the States are seeing a drop-off in terms of international visitors. What do you see happening in this area for your resort, for Singer Island and greater Palm Beach County?
Due to the trade issues and political climate, we have seen a downturn in the Asian Market. Once we can come to an agreement, I believe this market will return. Palm Beach County is seeing an increase in travel from South America, Argentina and Brazil. Our all-suite product is perfect for this market as they like to travel with their families and usually have a longer length of stay.
One of the most crucial areas is staff hiring and overall development. What’s the approach you take in both attracting and keeping top talent?
At the leadership management level, our luxury asset assists in attracting top talent. Additionally, our company offers an outstanding benefit package that is affordable for all levels of our team, including full medical and dental coverage, as well as a 401k plan. Our hosts realize after a short time that they can work and save money towards their retirement. And something that is very important is we insure that we bring a “sense of fun” to our workplace. We celebrate our successes with the entire team and we train, train, train so we can promote from within – which is very motivating for all employees.
The hospitality / lodging arenas routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you and your staff follow?
Exceptional delivery of service to every guest every day. That is why I got into this industry and that is what drives me to this day – leadership by example. My mantra to our team is “there is nothing we can’t do!”
As Baby Boomers fade into the sunset the ascending impact of Millennials is clearly growing very quickly. What trends have you noticed between the two different groups and how is the tourism industry in Palm Beach County adjusting to this new reality?
I joke and say, “Millennials are people too!” – I have two living at my house now. I think the main difference between Baby Boomers and Millennials is their travel experience when they arrive at a destination. Millennials want to communicate quickly and through their technology. They enjoy taking photos, so they can post on social media about their experience. I think their income also dictates that they want the best value and they also like “unconventional” accommodations like AirBnB, for example. These new “private” lodging accommodations have moved business away from our industry, which is why the brand has developed the new “lifestyle” concept for new properties to continue to play a part in this emerging market.
The Honda Classic is a staple event on the PGA Tour. How important is the event for the area in terms of overall visitors and dollars generated?
The economic impact of the Honda Classic has been growing each year. 10,000 hotel room nights were generated in the County in 2018 – the highest ever. With a record 224,000 spectators, the economic impact for our area was $30M. Additionally, $2M was raised for the Nicholas Children’s Foundation. And then there’s four days of media coverage on NBC reaching over four million households for the final round!
Curious to know — when you travel to a location and a given property — what’s the first thing you notice?
The sense of arrival is most important to me. How was I greeted? Did they make me feel welcome? I also notice the condition of the actual hotel and the appearance of the landscaping and grounds as I drive up to the property.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
Dennis Wagner – my GM at the Marriott, Portland Maine: “Its OK to make a mistake, but how you respond to that mistake dictates the kind of person you are.”
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