by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | February 9, 2018

Cheryl-Anne SturkenFontainebleau Miami BeachFrom its opening in 1954, the 1,504-room Fontainebleau Miami Beach has reigned supreme from her 20-acre beachfront spot on the South Florida Coast. The cast of characters that have flocked to this golden beauty have included the likes of Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and Elvis Presley. Small wonder it is almost impossible to separate this landmark hotel from the glitz and glamour of Miami, one of the country's most iconic destinations.

Now, for the first time it in its storied 64-year history, the property has a woman at its helm. Meet Mary Rogers, vice president and general manager, who just weeks ago took up the job of overseeing the inner workings of the Fontainebleau with an eye to keeping it at the forefront of travelers as the place to be and be seen. She is no newcomer to the place, though. In fact, she has been with the hotel for just over 10 years in a variety of roles, including senior director of catering and conference services, and most recently as vice president of operations, rooms.

I recently caught up with Rogers to talk about what she will bring to this leadership position.

How will you bring your knowledge of group business to the role of general manager?
Although I have always been involved in the group planning and execution process, in my new role I plan to really dive into the entire group process as it is a hugely important part of our business. As general manager, I believe it is imperative not only to focus on acquiring new group business but also to ensure repeat business. I am extremely fortunate to have experienced both of those functions in convention services and in hotel operations, which has really helped me analyze how all departments work together, what their needs are and the best ways for them to communicate. To put together the perfect program, it truly takes a village, and I am grateful to be surrounded by the most talented hospitality professionals in the industry who make it happen every day.

What is the hotel's strategic vision for growing group business in an increasingly crowded Miami hotel landscape?
Fontainebleau is truly unlike any other property. The experience we offer here is just not something that can be replicated. For example, you can host an event in any grand hotel ballroom that Miami has to offer, but not every ballroom holds the history that these walls carry. Only at Fontainebleau can you host an event in the same exact ballroom, on the very same stage where Frank Sinatra once performed next to Elvis Presley, where Whitney Houston performed songs for a movie soundtrack that to this day is the bestselling of all time. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the food-and-beverage side, our culinary team has the creative freedom, the talent and the resources to make every meeting planner's dreams come true, from offering freshly caught seafood from our own fishing boat as part of our Ocean to Table program, to customizing in-room amenities to each group's desire. The possibilities are endless.

How did you get into the hotel business, and what do you like most about it?
During summers while in high school, I worked at a bed and breakfast. I was fascinated with the idea that I was impacting the guest's vacation experience, and I realized that I had the power to really make a difference on their vacation, a privilege I continue to value each day. My favorite part of my job is that no days are ever the same. Each day, I am presented with new challenges and opportunities to learn, which helps me stay focused and engaged with our guests and team members.

How important of an influencer is the GM on her staff?
Hugely important. A GM leads by example, and I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to impact our team members in a positive way. I treat all our team members the way I like to be treated and make sure they can go home to their families knowing they've made a difference. It's important to me that they know what they do matters.

As GM will you be actively involved in site visits?
I always have been. However, as GM, I plan to be involved as much as possible in every step from meet-and-greets to site visits to pre-cons, in any way I can help our team succeed and to ensure that our meeting planners have memorable meetings and want to come back year after year.