A Ponte Vedra Beach resident, Todd Hickey is the general manager of The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa.
Can you please tell us about your background?
I started my career with Marriott International almost 24 years ago in August 1994 at the New Orleans Marriott hotel where I held several positions over a seven-year span, including catering services, catering operations, restaurants and catering sales. In 2001, I moved to Boston where I spent four years as the director of food & beverage at the Boston Marriott Burlington hotel and then the Boston Long Wharf Marriott hotel.
In June 2005, I joined the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes where I held a number of leadership positions with increasing responsibilities from director of event management, to resident manager, to hotel manager. In December 2012,I joined the Gaylord Hotels team as area director of operations, shortly after the transition into the Marriott portfolio of brands.
I assumed full responsibility for the newly “Managed by Marriott” Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa on Oct. 3, 2014, and truly love this beautiful hotel and Ponte Vedra Beach.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
In the hotel world, every single day is different; each day brings new opportunities, new relationships and new adventures. I really enjoy the variety that comes along with hosting meetings, conventions and activities at our resort. One day we could have 750 people attending a corporate convention, feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner in our ballrooms, and then we host a bride and groom getting married. We may have people outside riding our American Wave Surfstream, and then we have our hotel guests and Cabana Beach Club members, enjoying a sunny day on the beach. Every day is different. We employ close to 425 amazingly talented Marriott hosts, and getting to interact with them all, learn from them, help them achieve their goals and work alongside them to take care of our guests is so fulfilling.
What are the biggest challenges today for the hospitality industry?
Definitely keeping up with technology and how our guests use technology. I remember when our hotels had a telephone department and pay phones in our lobby areas, so guests could stay connected. Now, our guests travel with as many as six smart or mobile devices. We need to be sure we can meet their needs. Guests want access to Netflix and Hulu for example; streaming has to be fast and reliable. Trends are moving fast in our industry, and we need to be sure we keep up with those trends to stay current. Guests want to be able to use the same technology they do at home when they are on the road. Marriott International is focused on technology and allowing guests to travel brilliantly.
How would you describe the Tourist Development Council to those that are unfamiliar with it? What is your position with the council?
The Tourist Development Council is a group of volunteer business professionals that partner with St. Johns County administration to oversee the spending of the “tourist development tax,” which is collected on lodging and overnight stays in our awesome county. We partner with the Board of County Commissioners and county administration to ensure the funds collected are utilized towards programs, marketing and advertising. Our goal is to grow our economy from tourist-related activities in St. Johns County. These activities can include sports, arts and culture and meetings and conventions. I joined the Tourist Development Council in June of 2016 and currently hold the position of chairman.
What do you enjoy most about working and living in Ponte Vedra?
The people and sense of community are really what I enjoy most both personally and professionally. The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa gets so much support from our local community. I am thankful for the business people bring to us and for all the community that dine in our restaurants, come visit our Spa and recommend us to their out-of-town guests. Personally, we are thankful we are able to raise our boys here; our public education system is incredible. Two of them attend Ponte Vedra High, and our youngest attends Landrum Middle School. The teachers and staff are amazing and to know that our boys are getting such high-quality education is a blessing. Our neighbors and fellow parents have been so warm and welcoming to our family. Lastly, I love the weather for sure: We have an average of 72 degrees year-round. Every day feels like being on vacation!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am a family man. My lovely wife Anne and I have been married 20 years on April 25. Anne also works for Marriott International; she will be celebrating 30 years this June. So, we share the same passion of food and wine; we enjoy dining out and looking for cool restaurants, food, cocktails and great service. Our three boys, Nathan, Connor and Dylan, keep us very busy with sports and the social life of teenagers. We can usually be found on a sports field, golf course or beach on the weekends.
-Edited by Jon Blauvelt