Interview - Rhys O'Connell

Interview: Rhys O'Connell, Hotelier - November 2020

Accomplished Hotelier Rhys O'Connell and His Two Decades in Hospitality



The Media Man Group continues to interview the best of the best in their field. We have followed the career of Rhys for many years and he continues to beat and absolutely conquer the odds. Read up on his success and path in the highly competitive hotels industry, that brought him from Adelaide, South Australia to Las Vegas and beyond.

With ambitious beginnings in the Hyatt Group’s food and beverage department in Australia, Rhys O’Connell now thrives as an integral part of North America’s hospitality industry. For 20 years, his dynamic energy and finely honed skills have been well utilized in hotel operations from Front Desk Agent to General Manager for some of California’s most iconic hotel properties.

In 2011 at the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel, Rhys slid easily into a professional life at the only hotel on Beverly Hill’s iconic Rodeo Drive. Within the walls and grounds of the contemporary yet elegant property, he found his niche while expanding expertise as Assistant General Manager, which was multi faceted including Housekeeping Manager and Assistant to the Director of Sales. His constant staff training to Forbes Criteria, along with hands-on assistance in everything from maintenance to sales and guest services, maximized company profits and facilitated a 30-percent improved rating on Tripadvisor, which saw a significant increase of annual rate and occupancy.

By 2015, prestige beckoned convincingly with a director’s position at one of North America’s most luxurious hotels, Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. As the Director of Front Office, Rhys teamed with the Revenue Managers to increase ADR with innovative custom packages promoting Spa, Valet, Food and Beverage and Pool features for maximum customer satisfaction. His training skills transformed everything from the Reservations department to the Rooms division, raising standards in accordance with the Leading Hotels of the World.

Making his way south to north across the Golden State, Rhys accumulated skills in management with the Inn at Moonlight Beach in San Diego. Before departing for the San Francisco area, he had spearheaded projects leading to the inn’s achievement of becoming the World’s first WELL standard building in hospitality.


Rhys O'Connell and Marcus Mueller representing the Luxe Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA

California continues to benefit from the vivacious professional capabilities of Rhys O’Connell as he expertly fills the role of General Manager throughout COVID-19 at one of San Francisco’s finest properties. Under his watch, the four-star, 371-room Union property has taken its place as a Conde Nast Top Ten Hotel. The property benefited from his hiring as Director of Operations, bringing finely honed skills to introducing new management styles in operational divisions and enabling increases in RevPar, ADR and GOP. He also maximized company spending in multiple areas while recruiting and training employees that led him to receive a nomination for ‘Most Valuable Player’ award for 2020.

What's the best advice you can give to people who want to get to the next level in the hotel industry?

I believe that as a leader, motivating and inspiring people is one of the most important roles. The words you say, and how you use them are your most powerful tool. The basis to structure a high-performing team, ask positive questions that inspire energy and action, affirm team member’s contributions, make knowledge-sharing possible and build strong connections.

What separates you from your competition?

I believe that the core of a high-functioning culture must be a transparent and honest leadership because a strong company culture can help weather any storm or crisis. One thing I try to instill in my team is that there's no expiration date on moments and memories. As Dr. Suess once stated, "Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory."


Rhys O'Connell with family and friends of the Inn at Moonlight Beach in San Deigo, CA

What process do you follow when you are in the hiring stage?

Hiring people based on personality and not necessarily experience so you can extract their best strengths and mold each individual for success. Character grows out a person’s mindset. You can’t touch it, but somehow you know it’s there – and while talent and ability can get someone to the top, it really does take character to keep them there.


"Take care of the person on your left, take care of the person on your right, and everything else will take care of itself."

How would you describe being a leader in the hotel industry?

Being a leader in a hotel is an artful and versatile position as no other business has so many different masters in such a wide palette of expertise's under one roof. From the expert in selling to intriguing wine knowledge, artful cooking, mechanical engineers, IT and system analysts to thorough accountants and motivational speakers. The success for the manager is getting everyone aligned and motivated as well as inspired to advance. Hospitality is a craft!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

My main focus is to continue in creating unforgettable memories for both our guests and team members while growing and expanding my skills, learning from my incredible mentors and sharing it with others. Success is all about growing others and adding value.



Editors note: We look forward to continuing to watch this remarkable man's rise to the top of the business. If there was ever an inspirational story on an individual in the hotel and resorts sector, this it it.



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