Have You Met?
Name: Tony Dunn
Hometown: Born in Lincoln, England, then moved to Canada - most recent home - Toronto
Profession: General Manager of the Sheraton Downtown Denver
Status: Married to wife Heather
Family: Daughter Sydney - age 9
Story by: Nancy Koontz
To quote Susan Stiff, Area Director of Public Relations for Starwood Hotels – representing the Westin Downtown Denver and the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel: “There’s a new sheriff in town… And – his name is Tony Dunn!” With over 24 years of hotel and hospitality experience, The Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel recently announced that Dunn has been appointed its new General Manager. The Sheraton, Colorado’s largest hotel with 1,231 guest rooms and over 131,000-square-feet of meeting space, is located right on the 16th Street Mall.
Tony Dunn comes to the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel from the 1,377-room Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel where he was General Manager for five years. During that time, the hotel received honors for the highest Starwood Guest Points enrollments worldwide and was awarded Best Operational Innovation by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Prior to that, Dunn was the General Manager at the 474-room Sheraton Gateway Toronto Hotel succeeding three years as General Manager at the Westin Edmonton.
Dunn has also held the positions of Director of Rooms at the Westin Winnipeg and Director of Food and Beverage/Operations at Westin Edmonton. He began his career with Starwood in 1989 working at the Westin Ottawa and has held various positions in Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto.
With his impressive background in the hotel industry, Tony is looking forward to living in Denver with his wife Heather and their daughter Sydney. His passion for cycling, hiking and golf will be a perfect fit for all the recreational activities Colorado has to offer.
Tony Dunn considers a race he participated in while in Canada years ago called “Race to Conquer Cancer” as a turning point in his life when he committed to losing 40 lbs. and started paying more attention to his health and living a healthy lifestyle.
One of our Have You Met’s – Lois Paul (event co-chair) - who recently worked with Tony on the Excelsior Youth Center event remarked: “Our Excelsior Youth Center Women of Distinction organizing committee loved the event recently held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. The food and service far exceeded expectations, and we look forward to working in the future with hotel general manager, Tony Dunn, our newest Excelsior board member.”
Tony Dunn looks forward to his new leadership role and is delighted to be involved with one of Denver and Colorado’s premiere hotels. Tony says: “The experience I have gained in Canada has been an insightful and an enriching experience, and I’m eager to build upon that with this exciting new chapter. In addition, I’m excited to partner with the city of Denver to collectively grow our convention business.”
What I loved the most about Tony is he’s a perfect gentleman, kind, considerate and very genuinely committed to being the best he can be and bringing a new level of excellence to Denver. He is dedicated to making the Sheraton Downtown more of an anchor for the City of Denver.
High on his list of goals, Dunn wants his team to know that although he is focused and driven to work hard and expects the same from everyone else, he wants to help add more fun to everyone’s life. Tony says: “I am very conscious of my team and the time they take away from their families with the hours they put in. I come to work every day just like they do, and want my employees to feel it’s easy to get their head off the pillow every morning because the Sheraton is the best place to be!” Dunn adds: "Community pride will be part of the work environment, and we will take down the barriers that were there before to allow them to do their jobs better.”
(The Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel is located at 1550 Court Place. For more information, contact www.sheratondenverdowntown.com or 303-893-3333).
What upcoming charitable events are taking place at the Sheraton Denver Downtown? Here’s our 2014 lineup: Arrupe Jesuit High School, Boys & Girls Clubs, Latin American Education Foundation (LAEF), Le Bal de Ballet, Soup for the Soul, A Pink Tie Affair, Global Down Syndrome, Jefferson-Jackson Day (Colorado Democratic Party), American Red Cross (new for 2014), Girl Scouts of Colorado, Heart of Hearts (Rocky Mountain Adventist Healthcare Foundation), Excelsior Youth Center (new for 2014), March of Dimes, Denver CASA, Jack and Jill of America, Mental Health America of Colorado.
How important is it for a large hotel like the Sheraton to be involved in the community? It’s important that we have a connection piece to the community, and I believe we should be more connected. We also need more of a sponsorship presence, and we will focus on supporting youth organizations and plan on partnering with local sporting events and happening events like the stock show, races and festivals in the Denver area. We are an anchor for Downtown Denver, and we want to be even more involved. We have joined various downtown partnerships and organizations, and in addition – we volunteer our time and services for charitable events like the Thanksgiving Dinner for Samaritan House Homeless Shelter for Catholic Charities and the Father Woody Christmas Party with the Daniels Fund & Regis University.
What are you planning on doing to make the Sheraton Denver stand out from all the rest of the downtown hotels? In addition to like the stock show, we will do our best to embrace the various football/baseball/basketball games, food festivals, the St. Patrick’s Day run, etc. and events like that to create a sense of family. Our rooms should also become a commodity, and we want people to stay with us.
What will your expectations be from your staff? I’m counting on the staff to embrace and be excited about the changes we are making. There’s already a new acceptance with the staff… It’s okay to try new things. I want to create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. Have a corporate value of connecting but less conservative. A culture of: “Let’s give it a shot and see what works!”
How different is Denver from Toronto? Denver has everything a big city has with a friendly feel to it. It’s like Calgary and only a short trip to the mountains. Lots of great sports teams and good restaurants. Happy Hour is illegal in Toronto, so it’s just fun to pop in at somewhere like Jack’s and have oysters at happy hour, the Squeaky Bean and Stuebens are down to earth, casual but nice, and there are wonderful quality craft beers everywhere in Denver.
How many other cities have you worked in? Since working for Starwood for close to 25 years: Ottawa, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Alberta, and Toronto – among others; Denver is my first venture in the U.S.
What is your favorite country to visit? So far Shanghai – loved the people, the different culture and the food. But we also just love to go somewhere like Ft. Lauderdale, Florida too!
What is the biggest upside to being in the hotel and hospitality industry? Definitely the people you meet from multiple disciplines and careers like sales, finance, etc. Just the everyday people… Also love the challenges of working in the hotel industry.
Any downsides? Probably the time you have to be away from your family.
What would you still like to learn how to do? Ski – and become a better the cook!
What new and exciting activities have you found to do here in Denver? I love to hike around Red Rocks and am looking forward to my first concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I am so lucky I got here in time to experience “Bronco Fever” and go to the AFC game and see the entire stadium bathed in orange - that was amazing! I plan on spending more time doing both road and mountain biking; and I already have a list of all the restaurants I want to try.
.Out of all the celebrities and famous people you have probably met in your industry, who impressed you the most? Bill Clinton. He’s very engaging, down to earth and connects well with people. He took the time to take pictures with our staff - which not all Presidents would do.
Do you have a saying or motto that has helped guide you through life? “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side… Work at cleaning up your own backyard.”
What qualities should a good leader have? It’s really important to help set the vision for everybody. Communicate clearly, be honest and transparent at all levels. Know what you can and can’t do, and always follow through on your promises.
What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment so far? Of course my daughter. Aside from family, the people I’ve helped develop in the industry that have worked for me and gone on to senior leadership roles in the industry. Also "Ride to Conquer Cancer " – I was 40 lbs. heavier to where I am now. Running in and being involved with the Ride made me more aware of being healthy.
What’s in the future for Tony Dunn? I’m looking forward to getting my wife and daughter here from Canada. I want to be more involved in the community – especially the charitable and the downtown community. I want to help the Sheraton Denver have a huge presence and be part of the activities going on in Denver. Looking forward to helping encourage and create more growth at the hotel. I’m really enjoying the multiple responsibilities I have as the General Manager – and my role in the community so far.
What changes do you predict for the hotel industry in the next 10 years? Hotels will need to distinguish their brand and find what they are good at. You need to differentiate yourself from other hotels. We plan on creating a vision and lifestyle reputation for us and support our brand with what we determine we are best at.
How do you want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as someone who was very direct, driven – but with a really big heart. Someone who was very concerned about and loved his family and also took good care of his work team. I was someone who went from being a career man to a family man, and my life really changed when my daughter was born. People say that once they got to know me, I was just a big teddy bear!