Running MGM’s a grand experience

Mar 22, 2005 8:36 AM

If there can be a bricks-and-mortar definition of a mega resort, it would be the MGM Grand. Not only is it the world’s largest resort hotel, it has become since its opening in 1993 the standard by which gaming hotels are measured.

By its sheer size, the MGM Grand defies belief. Its 5,034 guest rooms are more than many entire cities contain. Its nearly 20 restaurants offer a wider variety of dining options than all of the eateries on L.A.’s famed La Cienega Blvd. And its five theater and concert venues can seat more patrons than all of those at the Los Angeles Music Center. It’s no wonder that its nickname is the City of Entertainment.

Not only is the MGM Grand massive, it has been successful. Last year, the resort posted the highest profits in its 12-year history.

Ensuring that the MGM Grand remains one of the world’s most exciting destination resorts is the task of Gamal Aziz, its president and chief operating officer.

Prior to becoming the hotel’s president in 2001, Aziz served as the MGM’s executive vice president of hotel operations.

During his tenure, the MGM introduced nine new restaurants and imported the French revue, "La Femme," from Paris. The hotel also opened the city’s first ultra-lounge, Tabu, and other nightspots, Teatro Euro Bar and 32o, a stylish frozen drink bar. Late last year, the MGM debuted KA, Cirque du Soleil’s most aggressive Las Vegas production.

Aziz also oversaw the development and opening in January of MGM’s Skylofts, an upscale and private sanctuary of 51 two-story suites designed to augment the exclusive Mansion villas.

A native of Egypt, Aziz earned a business administration degree from the University of Cairo prior to immigrating to the U.S. Before moving to Las Vegas, Aziz served in senior management positions at some of the world’s most prestigious hotels — the Plaza in New York, Westin in Washington, D.C. and the St. Francis in San Francisco.

Prior to joining the MGM Grand, Aziz served as senior vice president at Bellagio and was instrumental in its opening. Before that he worked at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Aziz says making the transition from four-star resort to Las Vegas casino hotel isn’t difficult, if you keep the basic tenets of hospitality in mind.

"At our core is providing the best level and quality of service for the customer," Aziz told GamingToday. "Basic leadership doesn’t change, whether it’s a 900-room or 5,000-room hotel."

Providing a high level of service often requires evaluating a customer base that includes several constituencies, Aziz said.

"Think of the MGM Grand as a city with a variety of different neighborhoods," Aziz said. "There is a different customer profile, a different demographic, for each of those neighborhoods."

Those customer profiles include the tourist, gambler, conventioneer, VIP casino customer and international traveler.

Aziz said it is the task of the MGM to create an "infrastructure" that will serve various profiles. "By tiering our offerings, our goal is to meet those customers’ needs and demands," he said.

Judging by the hotel’s continuing success, Aziz has been successful in meeting that goal.

And his work hasn’t gone unnoticed. At next month’s International Hotel and Restaurant Show (LVIHRS) in Las Vegas, Aziz will be honored as the Nevada Hotelier of the Year.

"Gamal was unanimously selected by our board because he truly exemplifies what this award is all about and he gives back so much to his industry," said Van Heffner, president and CEO of the Nevada Hotel & Lodging Association. "Gamal is committed to leadership and community involvement and he sincerely cares about each of his employees."

Indeed, in acknowledging the award, Aziz said he shared the honor with his entire team.

"Recognition like this further confirms that we have the best team in the industry," he said.

As for the future of the MGM Grand, Aziz said he expects the resort will "continue to excel" in offering cutting edge amenities.

Next on the list is The Residences, a condominium hotel being built in conjunction with Turnberry Place on the site of the old MGM amusement park.

"We were the first and only resort to recognize the value of condo hotels," he said. "That trend will continue. It makes financial sense and brings in the right customer profile."

And what’s another neighborhood for a "city" the size of the MGM Grand?