Nobu Hotel GM shares secrets to success

Martha Morales has spent her entire hospitality career in Las Vegas, starting out while still a student and rising up to become general manager of Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace, the hotel-within-a-hotel concept from chef Nobu Matsuhisa, actor Robert De Niro and film producer Meir Teper that opened within the Caesars Palace, Las Vegas in 2013.

Morales studied hotel operations during her junior and senior years at the Area Technical Trade Center in Las Vegas, where she was mentored by Karin Jones, who oversaw the school’s hospitality management program. “I fell in love with hospitality and became the president of the hotel association in high school,” Morales said. She ultimately earned a full scholarship from the Epicurean Charitable Foundation for the hospitality management program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, broadening her education. “While I was familiar with hotel operations, I had the opportunity to learn more about other areas such as employment laws, human resources, special events [and] food-and-beverage operations.” 

Martha Morales
Martha Morales joined Caesars Palace in 2010. (Nobu Hotel Las Vegas)

The Epicurean Charitable Foundation scholarship was created for college students pursuing a career in the F&B industry, but Morales was the first aspiring hotelier to receive the scholarship. “Through the foundation, I understood the food-and-beverage industry and experienced various resorts on the Strip through property tours,” she said. Her mentors at the university worked as VPs of food and beverage at different Las Vegas resorts. “The most important lesson I learned from them was to have a positive attitude and work hard at anything you do,” she said. Today, she is part of the foundation’s board of directors and serves as a mentor to upcoming hospitality leaders.

While studying at UNLV, Morales took several jobs at area hotels, including working as a game operator for various attractions at Circus Circus. “Afterward, I moved to a small hotel off the Strip called Arizona Charlie’s and started my front-office career.” 

Morales joined the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino in 2008, taking on her first management role as the guest services supervisor, overseeing the bell desk and valet team. In that role, she said, she gained experience managing workers twice her age but who reported directly to her. Even more challenging, the department was largely male-dominated. “I learned how to get to know my team and earn their respect,” she said of those early years. “I also learned valuable lessons in hard work, professionalism and trust.”

Hail Caesars

In 2010, Morales joined a group of young professionals to start a chapter of the Nevada Hotel and Lodging Association for upcoming hospitality leaders. “As a board member of this chapter, I was heavily involved in networking with young professionals in Las Vegas and hosted various networking and educational events,” she recalled. At the time, the VP of the Stratosphere and the VP at Caesars Palace served on the board of the NH&LA. “They often recruited their hotel management team through the association. Through my chapter leadership for young professionals under age 30, I was recruited to join Caesars Palace.” 

She joined the property as a hotel manager on the night shift. “I was the main point of contact for everything that happened within the property, so I learned to think on my feet in a 24/7, fast-paced environment,” she said. “I also learned to trust my gut when making decisions and feel confident that I was doing my best.”

She then took on a groups manager role, serving as the liaison between the catering/convention sales team and the hotel operations team, learning about what makes meetings successful. “I also learned how to be the face of Caesars Palace while meeting clients who served as executives in vice president and CEO positions,” she said. “I worked with meeting planners that had some of the most significant accounts in the U.S., so I stepped up and made sure to represent Caesars Palace in a positive light.”

With that experience under her belt, Morales moved to the front-office team and helped open the 600-room Laurel Collection by Caesars Palace, expanding her responsibilities and overseeing more front-facing departments, including weddings, the spa and the salon at Caesars Palace.

When the former GM of Nobu left, Morales took over as the interim GM. In her first four months as interim GM, she made “significant changes in hotel operations that provided positive, tangible results,” she said, leveraging her knowledge of the meetings business from the groups manager position to attract more group business to Nobu. The hotel’s leadership team invited her to interview for the position and she became a first-time GM in mid-2017.

Managing a boutique hotel within a larger destination resort presents various opportunities and challenges, Morales said. The Nobu brand has its own standards that are distinct from the Caesars Palace brand, and Morales’ team has had to constantly train and remind team members of the differentiated service. “On a positive note, our hotel is inside one of the largest and iconic resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, so we aren’t worried about running out of essentials,” she quipped. “We could leverage resources from Caesars Palace if needed.” 

Martha Morales'...


“The biggest professional challenge in my career has been moving into the GM role at Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace … Making the jump from being the director of hotel operations at Caesars Palace to overseeing a 182-room celebrity-branded hotel is its own challenge.”


“One of the biggest contributors to my success as the GM of Nobu Hotel is that I can draw from my previous experiences working at Caesars Palace. I have also leveraged close relationships with my counterparts throughout Caesars Entertainment, as we are part of the largest casino-entertainment company in the U.S. I have reached out to other leaders in the company and asked them for guidance or to help brainstorm ideas. I have been in this role for more than four years, but I am still learning every day, whether it involves best practices in marketing, revenue or other aspects of the business.”

Advice to GMs

“Listen, ask questions and stay curious. Also, never believe that because you’ve been successful somewhere previously that the success would automatically carry over to your next role. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first became a GM was not thoroughly understanding all the various responsibilities of this role. I thought that my experience overseeing 3,700 hotel rooms would automatically make me successful as a GM, and that wasn’t the case. When transitioning into the role, I believe GMs have to build new trust and knowledge. I would also advise GMs to take the time to understand how each team member learns and wants to be led.”

Secrets to Success

Talk less: “I believe that a leader’s success is directly correlated to team engagement. When you spend less time talking at your team, you will have more opportunities to build team engagement and trust through open dialogue.”
Listen more: “Listen to the language your team is using during conversations, not only in meetings but also in everyday conversations.” 
Stay curious: “As a GM, I’m constantly learning. Continue to ask questions and be open to new ideas and perspectives. Don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues for guidance or for help with brainstorming ideas.”