To say that the hospitality industry has taken a tremendous hit amid COVID-19 is an understatement. According to the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, the events of the past several months have resulted in approximately $2 billion in lost visitor spending and have cost more than 50 percent of the industry their jobs, at least in the short term. Weathering this storm, and eventually coming back even stronger, is going to be an uphill battle. However, this state boasts some of the most innovative and experienced hospitality leaders and hospitality minds in the world.

We are proud to showcase just a few of them this issue, sharing their journey through the industry and just how lucky the state is to have them captaining this storm.

Michael Kintner

General Manager, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino

Michael Kintner loves riding horses, a passion he owes to all the time he spent overseas, particularly in England, while growing up as a self-proclaimed Air Force brat.   

“While in college at the University of Kansas, I convinced my parents to let me take part in a ‘horsemanship’ course,” said Kintner. “I had been riding all over the world since I was little, so I figured it would be a great chance to show off.”  

And show off, he did! 

So much so that he decided he wanted to work with horses as part of his career, a decision he shared with his family. The timing was kismet as his mother had just started back at school herself – at the University of Arizona – as did his sister. While visiting them, he learned that the school had its own nationally recognized Race Track Industry Program. 

“I transferred to the University of Arizona immediately,” said Kintner. “While still staying close to the horses, I learned the intricacies of so many aspects of business and management – plus I met my Wildcat-loving wife.”  

After graduation and a few years working in California at the famed Santa Anita Park race track, Kintner learned of an opportunity to become part of the marketing team for Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, a 40,000-square-foot casino in Maricopa, Ariz. in 2005.   

“Working as the management partner for the Ak-Chin Indian Community has been one of the highlights of my professional career.  And never more so than during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Kintner, who was named general manager of the casino in August. “While our property was closed, the Community ensured all our employees, tribal and non-tribal, received their payroll and benefits.  Our entire team is so grateful for that commitment.” 

Sean Sachs

Senior Vice President, The Scottsdale Plaza

Sean Sachs grew up in the small farming community of Wiggins, Colo. where his mother was his sixth grade teacher and father was his high school principal.

“Given I didn’t want to be a farmer or teacher, my options there were extremely limited in Wiggins,” says Sachs, who – at the time – had a friend considering wrestling at Arizona State University.

And while the friend ultimately chose another college, Sachs – who visited with him during a recruiting trip – enrolled at ASU and moved to Arizona in 1994.

“To give an idea of how ‘fish out of water I felt,’ my economics freshman year class had 900 people. My hometown had about 500,” says Sachs, who would earn a marketing degree from ASU in 1998.

Then it was time for the real world.

“I knew I wanted to make Arizona – and truly Scottsdale – my home. I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” says Sachs.

He then again took inspiration from a friend, who noted he should look into the resort where she worked – The Scottsdale Plaza – for an entry level position. In 1998, Sachs joined the Scottsdale Plaza Resort as a sales executive.

Today he serves as senior vice president of the brand, which is still locally owned and operated. Sachs oversaw the recent renovation of the property, an estimated $15 million upgrade, and is about to put plans into motion for another renovation, even amid the pandemic.

Nick Campisano

General Manager, Born & Raised Hospitality

Tucson native Nick Campisano’s father raised him to believe in sweat equity.

Though the elder Campisano is credited with helping co-found and design the Canyon Ranch Resort & Spa, for example, it didn’t mean the younger Campisano got special treatment when he applied to work there in high school, starting at the bottom as a busboy and dish washer. The hard work he put in at his “dad’s office” only inspired Campisano to venture to Southern California in his early 20s to seek out more work and new industry experiences.

At the time, traditional dive bars along the Pacific coast were ripe for an upgrade, so Campisano started (and eventually became a partner) in a business that restored and refreshed them along the coast from Los Angeles to San Jose. Campisano would work as manager of each one as needed, but eventually took a break to study business and law at Santa Monica Community College.

While there in 2006, Morgans Hotel Group scooped him up to help breathe new life into the Mondrian Scottsdale. From there, he would join Fox Restaurant Concepts, helping to open Modern Steak and the first Culinary Dropout.

In 2012, when his niece was born with special needs, Campisano stepped back from day-to-day management to focus on family, taking a job at The Parlor.

There he met then-beverage director Joshua James. By 2014, the two dreamt up Clever Koi in central Phoenix. Its success led to a second location in Gilbert in 2016, and then to Fellow Osteria at SkySong and Across the Pond in more recent years. 

Andrew Fritz

CEO, In Good Spirits Hospitality 

There was no one in Andrew Fritz’s family involved in hospitality.

But there was Gus.

“My first job was at Skyline Chili, a popular regional chain in my native Ohio,” says Andrew Fritz. “I marveled daily at how the owner – Gus Georgostathis – delighted in multi-tasking between company finances, recipes, customers and mentoring staff.”

Fritz worked at Skyline throughout high school under Georgostathis.

“Except during summers, when I stayed with my dad in Arizona. And no, I didn’t mind the heat a bit,” says Fritz, who moved here full-time in 2001 to attend Arizona State University.

He initially studied architecture. But when he took a position at Cowboy Ciao, he knew his path was meant to be more like Georgostathis’s than Frank Lloyd Wright’s. While at Ciao, he became close with Chef Bernie Kantak.

By 2011, the two partnered on Citizen Public House. Then in 2012, they put pen to paper on a dream on a much grander scale, forming In Good Spirits Hospitality with an eye to open several new concepts. Since then, they’ve opened The Gladly and Commander Hamburger.

“Looking into the future, our ultimate goal will be to support our employees to help develop their dream concepts with us there to help,” says Fritz.

Patrick Brophy

General Manager, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia

New Jersey native Patrick Brophy planned to go into hospitality early on, spending much of his free time in his youth exploring hotels in Jersey’s famed Atlantic City.

“My pastime turned into what would become my career at 16 when I started at Trump Taj Mahal,” says Brophy.

Eager to pursue hospitality full time, Brophy studied the industry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas while working at the Mirage and Caesar’s Palace in the early 2000s. After graduating, Brophy began a storied career with Hyatt Hotels, living in nine different cities – including Beverly Hills, Washington D.C. and Savannah – over the course of the next decade. He would also serve in leadership roles with Ritz Carlton, Don CeSar Beach Resort at Post Card Inn before making his way to Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia.

“My wife, son and I joke that we need to stop going on vacations because when we do, we move to the destination,” says Brophy, who visited the Valley and fell in love less than a year before making the move to Scottsdale.

Now settled in, Brophy recently oversaw the resort’s enhancements to the adult pool, Joya Spa and the culinary program at the resort.

Jack Miller

General Manager, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Before he began his iconic career at the Fairmont, which includes founding Christmas at the Princess and spearheading the resort’s ongoing relationship with the Waste Management Phoenix Open, back in 1979 Jack Miller was the top-performing Holiday Inn food and beverage director nationwide. As a result, at 22 he was named the general manager of Holiday Inn San Antonio, the youngest ever to hold the position.

For the next 30 years, innovating at hotels across North America became his life’s work.

By the late 1990s, Miller was regional vice president of Intercontinental Hotels. He also married a fellow hospitality professional, Shea, and was busily raising four children. In 2009, he was named general manager of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

“I set out to make the resort the center of the community despite the recession,” says Miller, who helped re-imagine the Princess as a culinary mecca, signing on nationally regarded chefs in Michael Mina and Richard Sandoval to open concepts – Bourbon Steak, La Hacienda and Toro Latin Rum Bar – onsite, as well as developing their own concepts, such as casual eatery Ironwood American Kitchen and posh Plaza Bar.

The result: The Princess has grown from 400 employees to 1,200 and is currently the best-performing Fairmont resort worldwide.

Paige Lund

General Manager, JW Marriott Camelback Inn

When Paige Lund was 13, she got a job at Country Kitchen in her native Minnesota.

“From the day I walked in the door, I knew hospitality was my fate,” says Lund, who began researching college restaurant programs while in high school. “I settled on Northern Arizona University as it had similar weather and the small-town feel of my hometown, but with a world-class School of Hotel and Restaurant Management.”

By 1993, as she prepared to graduate and get married, she set her sights on a role with Old Spaghetti Factory, who’d been recruiting her,” says Lund. “But, in an effort to practice my interview skills, I met with one last company first.”

That company was Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.

“I started with Wyndham in 1993, taking a position as a food and beverage manager in development back in Minnesota, though long-term Arizona is where Clark – a native of Lake Havasu City – and I longed to put down roots,” says Lund, who would also work for the brand in Illinois and Georgia before earning a position at the Ritz Carlton Phoenix in 1998.

The next 20-plus years would fly by, with Lund serving in various leadership roles at a laundry list of Arizona’s top resorts including the Ritz, Boulders Resort & Spa, Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, The Wigwam and Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, among others. Lund also took on several leadership roles within the Arizona hospitality and tourism sectors. Notably, she is a member of the board of directors for the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, the City of Phoenix Tourism and Hospitality advisory board, and the NAU School of Hotel and Restaurant Management national advisory board.

In spring 2019, she made the decision to join the iconic JW Marriott Camelback Inn as its first-ever female general manager.