Ray Warren, who has been with the Marriott Corp. for 31 years and is general manager of the 25-story, 1,362-room San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina, made his career choice as a youngster.
“When I was in the fifth grade I told my best buddy I was going to go run an inn in the mountains,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated with hospitality. I can’t tell you what drew me.
“But I remember doing a school project about Switzerland and that’s when I got the idea.”
His vision came true, “nine years into my Marriott career,” he said, when he managed the chain’s ski lodge in Vail, Colo.
Having moved up the corporate ladder to run one of Downtown’s three convention hotels, Warren now combines his passion for the lodging industry with frequent ski trips and mountain vacations.
Essential philosophy about running a hotel in San Diego: It’s very simple. It’s all about people, focusing on them and on the Marriott culture.
Best way to keep a competitive edge: Talk to your customers and they’ll tell you what’s going on.
Latest trend in the hotel business: Convention hotels are creating more space so that they can host self-contained exhibits and meetings. All over the country, they are striving to get more of large corporations’ meetings and smaller associations’ conventions that want to be confined in a single hotel.
Goals to be achieved: I’m looking forward to the ConVis chairman’s job as a way to help the lodging industry pull together and to make people realize how important the convention and visitor industry is.
Best career decision: The day I decided to join Marriott in 1974, fresh out of graduate school.
Toughest management task: About 18 years ago, taking over at the helm of a downtown Minneapolis Amfac hotel that was just becoming a Marriott and changing its culture, which is not something you can do overnight.
Missed opportunity: There’s nothing I think I’ve missed, which is a great feeling.
Mentor: I’ve had several, but my dad, Dick Warren, who was in sales, was probably my most influential mentor because he had a passion about taking care of his customers.
I’ve been told I’m: Never satisfied.
What I like best about my job: I get a chance every day to have a positive influence on the people who work in the hotel and to help them develop as leaders.
What I like least about my job: There’s not much that I don’t like about my job. I love what I do.
Pet peeve: When someone loses focus of the fact that the reason we’re here is the customer.
Person I’d most like to meet: Jean-Claude Kielly.
Most-respected competitor: I respect them all.
Greatest passions: I love being in the mountains.
If I had it to do all over, I’d: Do it again, exactly as I have.
What I’d be doing if I wasn’t doing this: I would probably be a mountain guide in Switzerland.
Favorite quote: Success is never final.
Favorite author: Jimmy Buffett, who wrote “A Pirate Looks at Fifty.”
Favorite status symbol: My 12-year-old Trek mountain bike, made in Wisconsin.
Dream vacation spot: Anywhere in the mountains.
If I could have any car in the world it would be: A 1969 Volkswagen bug. I virtually lived in one for a year when I was a ski bum traveling through Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. That was before I started graduate school.