Ronen Nissenbaum is the new President and CEO of Dan Hotels. He has rich and extensive background in the hotel industry in Israel and overseas. He has served as Vice President of Luxury Operations for Hilton Hotels, and was responsible for 15 hotels and three hotels in pre-opening stages. He has also served as the Managing Director of Waldorf-Astoria in New York, one of the most famous hotels in the world. In addition, Nissenbaum held a number of senior positions with InterContinental. And, three years opening Disneyland in Paris.
TRO: You’ve been recently named the next President and CEO of Dan Hotels, that’s exciting news. Are you settling into the position?
Ronen Nissenbaum: Yes, with the first quarter behind us, I feel very much in the driving seat. The first few months were dedicated to learning about our hotels, our leaders and our teams. What our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as perceived by external and internal stakeholders. This will enable us to devise a game plan to improve upon the excellent work done to date and accelerate the development of our brands.
TRO: You have extensive experience in the hospitality management industry. You’ve served as, Managing Director of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, the President and CEO of the New York Plaza Group, and, more recently, the Vice President of Luxury operations for Hilton Hotels in the Americas. What are the main attributes you’ve taken away from these positions, and how are you going to apply them to your new position?
RN: Every position, every company and every culture has left a tremendous impression on the way I approach each new challenge. The past experiences impact and influence the decisions that must be taken to move the company forward. It would be unfair to name any specifics, but I can reiterate something that speaks to the way I view it: Each one of us learns from the amazing experiences we are privileged to have throughout our life, and maybe most of all from the worst and most difficult ones. That is where the rubber hits the road, and you really find out who you are during those challenging moments.
TRO: One of the positions you held was the Senior Executive Vice President of Operations for the Marina Bay Sands, a casino resort in Singapore. Did you find this a different experience than other hotel management positions?
RN: It was certainly different. In the first year of operation, that one property delivered more revenue and profit than the 4500 hotels in the portfolio of my previous company. Although the Casino represented 80% of the revenue and profit, the non-gaming aspect delivered more profit than most hotel companies around the globe. Gaming has its own language. It was like going through a second MBA program. Opening up a 2,600 room hotel, 1 Million SQFT convention center, 1 Million SQFT casino, 1 million SQFT retails operation with almost 300 shops, 3000 car park spaces, 2 theaters, 1 Museum, 47 restaurants, and the now famous Skypark – nothing is quite like it. It still represents the most profitable building in the world.
TRO: You received an MBA from Emory University, after studying hotel management in Switzerland. Has hospitality management always been your choice of profession?
RN: Since the age of 14. It was my Uncle that influenced my decision and I joined a Vocational High School at 14, worked 2 years in Hotels while at High School, so you can say that it was fortunate that I always knew where my future was heading. By the way, my goal was to be a General Manager.
TRO: You’re married with three children; ages 22, 20, and 16. Which do you think is more difficult, managing multiple hotels with hundreds of rooms or raising teenagers?
RN: My wife certainly has the more difficult role. She has the patience of a saint. Although you can view hotels and the leaders in those hotels as your children, but I have no illusion that I could not do what my wife Karen has been able to achieve. Without her, there is no way I could have been able to concentrate and focus on my career. It takes a team, and I have the best teammate anyone could wish for.
TRO: Most of your career in hotel management, you’ve had quite a bit on your plate. Do you have any relaxing activities that take away the stresses of your job?
RN: Yes, vacationing with my family is my balancing act. Skiing, or visiting, new and exciting places are my favorite past times. The quality time spent with my wife and children give me the strength needed to continue working as arduously as needed.
TRO: What do you think our readers, who are primarily travel agents, should know about interacting with hotels to give your guests (their clients) the best possible vacation experience?
RN: Find out what are the pet peeves and most important elements for your customer , and then communicate them to the hotel: the GM, the Executive offices, or the Front office/Guest services. When you provide the hotel with that knowledge, there should be no excuse for not exceeding the guests expectations.
TRO: Dan Hotels has just opened an international property in Bangalore, Bangladesh. Are there any other developments travel agents should be watching for in the near future?
RN: Yes, we will be opening a new concept hotel in Tel Aviv in the coming months. The Link Hotel and Hub is located in the heart of Tel Aviv. The technologically advanced concept is married with incredible artwork from Tel Aviv to deliver a memorable experience that links our guests to the local environment and other guests. Once opened, we will ensure and perfect the concept and then multiply the concept to additional hotels in Israel and abroad.