Sileshi Mengiste: Divisional Vice President, Luxury Division, Remington Hotels

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Sileshi Mengiste stands at the forefront of the hospitality industry as divisional vice president of Remington Hotels. With more than 25 years of combined experience, Mengiste has unassumingly driven success of the Remington luxury hotel portfolio, conceptualizing and directing extensive renovation and re-positioning efforts to strengthen the presence of multiple luxury division properties.

Mengiste’s propensity for conceptual envisioning opened One Ocean Resort & Spa, a luxury, beachfront, boutique resort in Atlantic Beach, Fla., named four-star hotel by Forbe’s Travel Guide, as a top 500 world’s best hotel by Travel + Leisure Magazine and most recently, as No. 2 Resort in Florida (Atlantic & Keys) by Condé Nast Traveler. Under Mengiste’s command as managing director, One Ocean Resort & Spa achieved AAA four-diamond status. Additionally, Mengiste’s direction pushed the award-winning restaurant, Azurea to success, now serving as the dining destination of discerned culinary connoisseurs.

How did you get into the hospitality industry?

My father was a hotelier, so I grew up in the hospitality business. I worked in many areas of the hotel industry before graduating from Utalii College in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as San Francisco's Golden Gate University. With luxury management experience spanning more than 30 years, I held positions with the Four Season Clift San Francisco, Wynn Las Vegas, St. Regis Resort Houston, the Pan Pacific Hotel  and Le Meridien Hotel in San Francisco, before joining Remington Hotels in 2007 to open One Ocean Resort & Spa in Atlantic Beach. I am now the divisional vice president for the Luxury Division of Remington Hotels, a collection of independent hotels and resorts.

Tell us about One Ocean Resort & Spa. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the hotel?

Our vision in opening One Ocean Resort & Spa was to surround guests in an artfully inspired atmosphere immersing them in the beauty of the natural environment. Aiming to provide an authentic, elegant and intuitive stay experience, the creative spirit of the resort is captured through a compelling composition of artwork, including culinary, décor, photography and service, each offering a unique vision inspired by the beachfront setting.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to One Ocean's success?

The associates of One Ocean Resort & Spa are dedicated to the success of the resort. Through a dynamic sales and marketing team as well as a public relations agency, we are able to reinforce our image positioning nationally and regionally to influence travelers' decisions, all while continuing to establish a strong community presence through partnerships with charitable organizations. 

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

This is an industry focused on providing personalized customer service, and there are always new and noteworthy strategies hotels employee to elevate the guest experience. At One Ocean, we offer Seamless Check-in bypassing the front desk, a One Touch phone feature fulfilling any request any time of day, and an intuitive Docent service, which are personal hosts acting as more than concierges to accommodate even the most luxurious wishes. We've also noticed the definition of luxury is evolving, and today it's often defined by choice and efficiency. We've adapted our in-room dining concept to deliver the same high-quality cuisine available at Azurea with accessible service in a flash. Our guests don't have to choose between quality and speed.

Life Motto?

Always strive to do the right thing.

One Ocean Resort & Spa's Motto?

“Always in Your Element” captures the guest experience at One Ocean Resort & Spa. 

Your greatest success as GM of One Ocean Resort & Spa? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

One Ocean opened in 2008 in what was a very difficult time for the market. We were able to steadily increase occupancy rates and RevPAR as we continue to grow and maintain our success.

Your advice to an aspiring hotelier?

Success does not come overnight.  Prepare yourself for the next step by learning and working hard.

Describe the ideal experience at One Ocean Resort & Spa.

Upon arrival, guests are greeted by valet service and enjoy Seamless Check-in, completely bypassing the front desk. One Ocean Docents are more than a concierge, acting as intuitive hosts to assist with every wish {unpacking, steaming garments, stocking amenity cabinets, delivering coffee, handling business needs, etc.}, leaving travelers more time to enjoy their vacation or prepare for meetings. Guest round out the perfect stay experience dining at Azurea, the signature restaurant offering a seasonal menu of innovative cuisine, as well as a visit to The Spa, where they may choose from more than 40 marine-inspired treatments for ultimate relaxation.

How important are architecture/design to the success of your hotel?

The design elements are key to being the premier retreat for today’s discerning travelers. The décor of One Ocean Resort & Spa reflects the ambiance of Atlantic Beach with a laid-back, beach-chic atmosphere in a contrasting backdrop of artistic sophistication and beautiful beach style. The 193 beachfront and beach-view rooms and stylish suites boast luxurious beds custom-designed specifically for the resort and feature an airy, oceanic-inspired décor. Lodgings are draped in soothing splashes of azure, sand and pearl, to create a natural reflection of the resort's surroundings, both inside and out.

How do you motivate your employees?

Our employees are an integral part of the entire organization, and the key to providing our guests the best possible experience when visiting our resort. We have developed a strong sense of team at One Ocean Resort & Spa, and between regular staff meetings, team-building exercises and positive reinforcement, I believe our business model is designed for success.

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

French Fries and a Glass of Red Wine.

What literature is on your bed stand?

Currently, "Mightier than the Sword," by Jeffrey Archer.

Who is your role model - business and personal?

Nelson Mandela. Also, my father for both business and personal reasons, as he was also in the hospitality field and ignited my passion for the industry.

Current passion?

Running. I love to complete 4 half-marathons each year.

Favorite travel destination?

A safari: specifically the Serengeti National Park. 

What's next for One Ocean Resort & Spa/Remington Hotels?

One Ocean Resort & Spa is the first resort in the independent luxury division of Remington Hotels to debut. Presenting state-of-the-art spa and fitness facilities, fine dining and other recreational options, each destination appeals to guests' sense of discovery by providing an intuitive and authentic experience. In addition to One Ocean Resort & Spa, independent luxury collection includes Melrose Georgetown Hotel in Washington, D.C., Silversmith Hotel in Chicago and the Duval Collection in Key West, Fla., an eclectic assortments of intimate hotels, resorts and amenities, which includes Pier House Resort & Spa, La Concha Key West, The Southernmost House and The Inn at Key West. The Churchill in Washington, D.C., Historic Inns of Annapolis in Annapolis, Md., and the recently acquired Lakeway Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas are joining the luxury division soon. It's an exciting time for Remington Hotels and an exciting time to be in the hospitality industry.

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Responsible for the concept behind Melrose Georgetown Hotel’s multimillion dollar reinvention, Mengiste continues to oversee operations that build brand positioning. Mengiste’s re-envisioning of Melrose includes a bold public space, guest rooms and the farm-to-fork Jardenea restaurant and lounge. In similar fashion, Mengiste directed a significant renovation of the recently completed Silversmith Hotel in Chicago, blending contemporary design with historic architecture to create a distinct image for the city hotel. Silversmith Hotel boasts a vibrant lounge and restaurant Adamus, inserting Silversmith into the bustling downtown lounge scene of Chicago.

Currently, Mengiste is working to conceptualize a renovation of Remington’s Churchill Embassy Row Hotel in Washington, D.C. and has previously used his talent for reinvention to craft the overall design and restaurant concept for Hyatt Long Island, fostering brand recognition and driving sales while elevating the product.

Prior to Remington Hotels, Mengiste served as Executive Director of Hotel Operations for the famed 2,700-roomed Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, working directly with Steve Wynn to bolster guest experience. Mengiste also worked as general manager for household name hotels such as Le Meridian San Francisco, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and St. Regis Hotel in Houston, maintaining their unparalleled standards of guest satisfaction. Born in Ethiopia, Mengiste is a graduate of Kenya Utalii College in Nairobi, Kenya, and later, of Golden Gate University in San Francisco.