Vdara at CityCenter
Graduating from her hometown University of Nevada, Las Vegas and following a more-than-20-year career with MGM Mirage, Mary Giuliano was recently appointed General Manager of CityCenter’s Vdara. With experience across virtually every important department, including sales and marketing, guest services, room reservations, front services, housekeeping, maintenance, show ticket office, spas, salon, pools and even a wedding chapel, Giuliano is now charged with making sure guests at the 1,495-unit property have an elite luxury experience. Recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan caught up to Giuliano during another hectic day where she spent a few minutes to talk about Vdara and life in Vegas.
ET: So what was it like to launch this hotel?
Mary Giuliano: I’ve been on the CityCenter project for four years so it has been interesting. I actually just came to Vdara recently but I think you are right in that the first year is an exciting time to be on such an important project. Las Vegas is such a dynamic destination. When Bellagio first opened it set a new tone for Las Vegas, from dining to shopping. It changed a lot of people’s perceptions about Las Vegas. CityCenter is the same. It is a big step forward for Las Vegas and that makes what we do here even more important.
ET: Has it been challenging balancing the expenses of launching a luxury property against the price pressures of a bad economy?
Mary Giuliano: The biggest challenge was not to blame the economy. Things had to get done, and they had to get done the right way to provide the experience we wanted to provide. Our company has opened a lot of successful projects [MGM Mirage owns a laundry list of gaming properties, including MGM Grand, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus in Las Vegas, as well as Beau Rivage in Mississippi] in all types of conditions, so we have a very good track record. Naturally there was consumer apprehension, but I am happy to say people came in and have been expressing that they think we have done a good job.
ET: What makes Vdara of interest to elite travelers?
Mary Giuliano: Vdara is unique in that we are an escape as a non-gaming hotel, but we still provide access as part of CityCenter and through our location on the strip. As you walk through the door, the idea is to be able to decompress. Even the shape of the lobby is designed to be relaxing. We are great for the independent leisure traveler, but we also have great venues for executive meetings and incentives. Our meeting space is conveniently located so it again is easy access.
ET: Vegas has a reputation as a hard nosed town. Is it difficult to be a female executive here?
Mary Giuliano: I’ve been in the gaming business my entire career and never feel slighted. In fact, I think Las Vegas and the company provide great opportunities because this is a place where performance matters. It’s also exciting that I have been able to be a mentor to other women in the business, and I am fortunate to have had some great bosses and mentors as well.
ET: Being relatively new to Vdara, what’s at the top of your “to do” list?
Mary Giuliano: I want to ensure that the consumer knows what we are. Being no-smoking and a couple steps away from the center of CityCenter with a luxury residential environment gives us a unique position. We are an all-valet hotel, so right when you get to the front door it is nice and peaceful. The design by Rafael Viñoly [his Tokyo International Forum is a globally acclaimed exhibition and conference hall] is really amazing and stands out. Our spa received a gold rating for sustainability, so we are going to be popular with visitors who are environmentally conscious, and we provide a true luxury experience.
ET: Is it possible to have a 1,495-room luxury hotel?
Mary Giuliano: We’ve had 3,000-room luxury hotels [Bellagio] so this is easy [laughs]. The truth is, it is about the staff, and keeping the staff engaged. Hopefully we are doing that.
ET: So if a guest wants a local experience, do you have any recommendations?
Mary Giuliano: My absolute favorite is Red Rock Canyon. It is a national park with beautiful outdoor scenery and it’s great for hiking. It’s only about a half-hour away, but once you are there you can’t even see the city.