• Meet Robert Watson, Growing Up in the Business

    Robert Watson celebrates 30 years with Hilton, but his résumé in hospitality goes way back.

     
    POSTED June 6, 2019
     

Hospitality is somewhat of a family business for Tulsa, Oklahoma– native Robert Watson. After all, his career started as a teenager working alongside his father at downtown Tulsa’s renowned Mayo Hotel. “I started out at the coat check station and then moved into a role as a steward [dishwasher]. My father’s roles included banquet manager, catering manager, and food and beverage director,” recalls Watson, who came on board last summer as general manager of Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

Watson recently celebrated his 30th anniversary with the Hilton brand. He came to Hilton Anatole from Hilton Austin, where he led his team to win “Hotel of the Year” for 2018. “I’m thrilled to work toward the same goal for the legendary Hilton Anatole. We will be celebrating our 40th anniversary in 2019, and my goals will revolve around making this milestone year the best in terms of instituting a culture of care, value and respect for our team members while continuing to drive record performance and ensure our guests are having a great experience during their time with us,” says Watson.

Watson says the Dallas property continues to be a high-demand destination for meetings in the U.S., with Cvent ranking the city among the country’s top 10. “The Hilton Anatole was also ranked a top 10 hotel destination and is the only hotel in Dallas that made that list,” he notes.

Dallas’ central location from points around the country, says Watson, is one of the reasons for its popularity as a meeting locale. “Our climate is another big factor, especially for meetings in the first and fourth quarters when weather and natural disasters can cause a lot of risk for meetings being canceled in other parts of the country. And finally, our people: Dallas has become a melting pot destination with over 100,000 people a year migrating here, and they all seem to adopt the Southern hospitality and genuine sense of kindness,” says Watson.

Passionate entrepreneurs and ESP Presents co-founders Matt Woodburn and Sarah Neukom collaborate to craft experiential events. 

ILM+E: What are your backgrounds in the industry and how did you come to establish your production firm?

 

As general manager of the new 130-room AC Hotel Grand Rapids Downtown, Ryan Schmied enjoys a fast-track life by making sure everything at the stunning boutique-style property is running smoothly.

Formerly a refrigerator production factory, warehouse and most recently a TGI Fridays near the Van Andel Arena, the 19th-century space in which the chic AC is located has quite a history.

 

Gail Davis, founder and president of Dallas-based GDA Speakers, was working in corporate training for EDS when the phone rang. “One of my mentors called me and said, ‘There’s a position in the events department, and I think you should do it. It would be so easy for a working mom,’” says Davis, before adding wryly, “It was clearly someone who had never planned events.”