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David Bodette was recently appointed general manager of Milwaukee's Saint Kate Hotel.
1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?
The freedom to create much like an artist does – only my canvas is the guest experience. Every day, I’m asking, “How can we use our imagination to fulfill dreams and make wishes a reality?” We have a very creative team here, who are stretching the boundaries and, also, asking the right questions, so our guests don’t have to. All they have to do is enjoy. It is that level of creative freedom, from the top down, that makes my life exciting.
2. How do you think past experiences have prepared you for this role?
My time on the Queen Mary, learning about her attractions, exhibits and events, certainly helped me develop the mind set of seeing programming as a compliment to the guest’s experience, while my time in Denver at The ART, a hotel, prepared me for running an arts-centric hotel. I’m now blending that knowledge with my years in luxury hospitality to enliven the guest experience of America’s only all arts hotel, Saint Kate.
3. How did you get into the industry?
I started out working in the hotel industry’s cousin, restaurants, where I worked for years in just about every type of concept imaginable. While looking for a new career, when the restaurant I was at closed, I took my first hotel job opening the former Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena, Calif. (now The Langham Huntington, Pasadena) as the Room Service Manager. It was a magical time for me. I learned from expert hoteliers, including Ritz-Carlton founder Horst Schulze, and other Ritz-Carlton executives, Bill Hall and Otto Svensson. Their wisdom encouraged me to expand my knowledge and experience, moving from housekeeping and valet, to working in food & beverage, at the front desk and in the spa. It was also my first encounter with large-scale luxury group events for companies like Merck, Glaxo, Ford and Mercedes Benz. I was hooked. That experience was the bug I needed to sustain my hospitality career for the next 30 years.
4. What are you hoping to achieve in your new role?
I want to show and share the possibilities of Saint Kate’s performing arts concept. In the last ten years, fine arts hotels have seen such momentum. I want the same for the performing arts. They create such a dynamic formula that can easily adapt to various locations, each with a completely new feel. I think we are at the tip of the iceberg for the possibilities, so to speak.
5. What do you enjoy most about the industry?
I love the ever-changing faces of hotels, and how we, as an industry, have evolved over the years. From grand palaces to brand generators to boutique properties, and now to the kaleidoscope of lifestyle hotels, there is always something new in development. I can’t wait for what is around the corner for our future.