OYW Media Q&A: Reggie Cooper, General Manager, Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, Virginia

A third-generation hotelier follows his entrepreneurial spirit to grow a successful career at some of the most sought-after independent hotels and resorts in the world.

How has your role in Hospitality Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management opened your world?

The people. The people I’ve gotten to meet by running high prestige luxury properties, whether it’s sharing coffee with a guest who is a former Secretary of State or having royalty come through. It’s really changed my world just in terms of how much I enjoy the individuals that you meet. And I’ve been fortunate in my career to work in the independent space and have had very unique, entrepreneurial owners that have allowed me to continue to try new things and develop new things.

How did you start your career in hospitality?

I’m a third-generation hotelier, so my grandfather ran the Royal York in Toronto. My father worked for Canadian Pacific and Hotels in their corporate offices and my mother ran our family restaurant. When I was 10, my mother didn’t have a dishwasher and I was put into service. I think that was where I started. I still think if I had stuck with it I probably could have been the best in the industry at washing dishes, but unfortunately, I kept moving forward. So, I think being born above a restaurant sort of predisposes you to find out what a fascinating industry this is and that’s what led me to become part of hospitality. Knowing so much about hospitality and really enjoying watching people interact with the employees and seeing what the guests get out of it was something that was attractive to me to pursue as a career.

How would you describe your day-to-day life as a General Manager in the hospitality industry?

I like to say it’s like a time traveler, because you’re working on things, like an event, that is not going to come until next year or the year after. Then you’re working with people who are coming in a couple of months. You’ve got events that are going to happen two days from now that you have to get ready for. Then you have the guest of the moment, the ones that are in house. And then you get to look back and say what did we do yesterday? Then we can close a month and you’ll look at the financial results, you get the Star report, you say how did we do last week against our competitive set? So, just defined as a time traveler where you get to cover about two-year span of time each day in what you do.

What would surprise people about your role as a General Manager?

I really enjoy watching the staff/guest interaction and to be part of that. It’s not uncommon for me to call my wife and say, “I haven’t had enough of it today. I’m going to be a few more hours before I get home.” That feeds my soul and my dedication to what I do. Just seeing that happen with our guests and with our staff members and how they how they really feel competent and proud of what they do.

What are some of the hidden benefits of your role as a General Manager?

For me, one of the greatest benefits is seeing people grow in their careers. I’m old enough now that I have a series of people I worked with when they were straight out of straight out of college and now they’re executives in other hotels and other resorts around the world. That’s such a benefit to be that mentor and pay tribute to all the people who mentored me growing up. And I really enjoy those relationships that we maintain outside of that. You know, it’s just a great industry and regardless of whether you’re competing with the property across the street, you still have a kinship and friendship with everybody that’s in that property. The other hoteliers that are in this industry might change properties, but we still have friendships and relationships and know each other’s families and spouses and that’s really unique. There’s not a lot of industries where competitors are that good a friend. We share ideas and ways that things are working for us that might help someone else. So, I think that is such an emotional return that we get out of doing this beyond just operating great hotels.