By Adam and Larry Mogelonsky
Calling Shannon McCallum’s career a success is an understatement. As vice-president of Hotel Operations at Resorts World Las Vegas (RWLV) — which opened in June 2021 as the newest and most technologically advanced casino resort on The Strip — she is responsible for a vast team and an even greater number of guests. Yet her career traces back to humble roots in British Columbia, offering an exemplary path that any aspiring hospitality leader can learn from.
Growing up in Kelowna, McCallum fell into hospitality by accident. Living a mile away from a luxury property, she started working there during highschool over the weekends and during summer vacations. Working in hotels not only put her through college, but also inspired her to stay in hospitality instead of pursuing law.
Her early experience encompassed 15 years at Canadian Pacific Hotels and Fairmont, including time at the Lake Okanagan Resort (managed by Canadian Pacific), opening the Fairmont Vancouver Airport in 1999, and then at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. In 2010, she was recruited to join MGM Resorts for the newly opened ARIA Resort & Casino.
Aside from her duties for RWLV, McCallum is currently a board member for the Nevada Hotel and Lodging Association and past chair of the Nevada Hotel and Lodging Foundation. She’s a member of the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals Association and a current co-chair of the 2023 HITEC Advisory Council. She is also co-chair of the 2024 Super Bowl Host Committee for Hotels and Housing and was a prior member of the Forbes Travel Guide Standards Advisory Council representing global gaming properties. In 2015, she was recognized as Hotelier of the Year for the State of Nevada.
Q. What is your current role at RWLV?
SM: I’m vice-president of Hotel Operations at RWLV, overseeing all aspects of the hotel operations with more than 1,500 team members. This includes three luxury hotels (Hilton Las Vegas, Conrad Las Vegas and Crockfords Las Vegas), totaling 3,506 rooms and suites combined. RWLV’s forecast hotel revenue alone is north of $300 million for 2023, while the property itself has more than 50 restaurants and lounges, a vibrant nightlife as well as a 4,000-seat theatre featuring top A-List entertainment.
Q. Why did you enter the hospitality industry? What factors continue to excite you?
SM: Working in hotels and taking care of people came naturally to me…it never felt like work. It was exciting to meet new people that were from faraway places and to speak about the city or the property. I still get excited walking through our property, hearing our guests having fun and seeing them enjoying our offerings. As for the present day, hotels are always adapting to changing trends, new menus, updating experiences and it never gets stale or routine — every day is different.
Q. Which individuals or events have fuelled your career?
SM: When I was 16, a hotel I worked at hosted a Commonwealth of Nations with a high level of security due to the leaders of the countries in attendance. I clearly remember Margaret Thatcher, the Sultan of Brunei, Rajiv Gandhi and Brian Mulroney in attendance, among many other high-level leaders. During the event, I thought to myself, “What a rare opportunity to be involved in such a momentous gathering.” It was indeed a very exciting moment for someone my age to be a part of, and there are very few careers that have this ongoing interaction with notable individuals in such an exciting way. I am so fortunate to have taken this path.
Q. Do you believe there is a glass ceiling in our industry?
SM: In the past few decades, there has been an increase of women in executive roles in hospitality. I have never felt a limit to the growth of my career as I have grown my areas of responsibility.
Q. What advice would you offer women working in hospitality?
SM: I do feel strongly that building my personal legacy in a positive way, working in a dedicated manner and also treating people well — both internally and externally — played a large part in the opportunities that were open for advancement. I would also emphasize getting involved in the community by joining industry associations and volunteering, as well as building the pipeline of talent for the future of our industry by mentoring up-and-coming individuals. Networking with other hospitality individuals and vendors is always important, while building relationships with my guests over the years and caring about their experiences has also been rewarding.
The hospitality industry has so much to offer, as it can be practiced all over the world and brings new and different experiences every day. There is never a dull moment.