From the Las Vegas Strip to national parks, hotel construction is a major industry in the United States. According to Statista, there were 4,775 hotels and 578,508 rooms in the development pipeline in February 2017. Among the young professionals working to make world-class hospitality experiences a reality is Mihaylo alumnus Kevin Rohani ’10 (hospitality management), who is vice president of development and acquisitions at Dream Hotel Group. Rohani visited campus on April 11 to talk to students about his career and the hospitality industry.
“It’s been a crazy few years since Fullerton,” said Kevin Rohani ’10 as he addressed entertainment and hospitality students on April 11. At 30 years of age, he has already overseen the development of destination hotels from Los Angeles to Thailand. At the forefront of the revolution in customer service-focused hospitality experiences, Rohani seems poised to be a leader in the industry for decades to come.
A Day in the Life of a Hotel Developer
Rohani told students that the hospitality industry is very broad, and there are numerous paths to success. “Hospitality can range from a hotel to a restaurant to a cruise ship to even a senior living center for your parents,” he said. “Find a path, trust your gut, and go.”
With interest in hotel development growing around the world, Rohani is deluged with potential projects. He often looks at dozens of hotel projects per week and must decide which ones to devote resources to.
Key to leading hotel developments from vision to reality is the feasibility study. “Feasibility means, ‘does it make sense financially to build a hotel here?’” he said. These studies look at a number of factors, including technical possibilities, estimated cost parameters and profitability. Rohani is actively working on five to 10 projects on any given day.
With the ever-changing technological and social environments making even the best plans obsolete in a few years, hotel developers such as Rohani must have an eye to the future. “You have to be very anticipatory, thinking about where a place will be before it even opens,” he said. “While you are in the process of a building project, you have to engage with the community.” This includes working with mayors, city council members, city planners and local business leaders.
Building a Hotel Career
A graduate of University High School in Irvine, Rohani’s exposure to the real estate industry began at an early age. His family has successful business operations in Southern California residential real estate. But at the urging of his father, Rohani determined to pursue a college education to achieve even greater heights in the business world.
After attending two community colleges simultaneously – Santiago Canyon College and Irvine Valley College – so he could complete his associate’s degree in only one year, Rohani came to Cal State Fullerton in 2007 as a marketing student. In 2009, he added the then-new entertainment and tourism program as a second concentration.
When he graduated in 2010, he had secured a 30-day temporary job with sbe Hotel Group in Los Angeles, which ultimately became a long-term career position. At 24, one of Rohani’s first tasks was closing the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He would also assist with the opening of the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and SLS Hotel South Beach.
While working for sbe, Rohani came face-to-face with the pace of the modern hospitality industry. “We have the ability to affect people’s lives and experiences,” he said. “Health and hospitality are really the only two industries that are 24/7. You learn something new every day. You are constantly meeting people.”
By 2013, Rohani was ready to take on a new challenge and joined Gensler, one of sbe’s partners. “Gensler’s L.A. office by itself is the third-largest architectural office in the world,” he said. He would lead hotel, nightclub, resort and mixed-use development projects from Los Angeles to Cancun.
In August 2016, Rohani was appointed vice president of development for Dream Hotel Group, which operates a worldwide portfolio of luxury properties under several brands, including the exclusive Dream Hotels, the lifestyle Time Hotels, and the submarket-oriented Unscripted.
Dream Hotels currently manages 17 establishments worldwide, most of which are in New York, though expansion is planned in Southern California, with a new Hollywood location opening earlier this year. Future projects are planned throughout the U.S. and worldwide.
Launching Your Hospitality Career
With tourism, hospitality and entertainment creating more than 160,000 jobs in Orange County alone, this field understandably attracts many local young people.
Rohani encourages Cal State Fullerton students to be proactive in finding opportunities in hospitality. “Don’t ever close the door on an opportunity,” he said. “Nurturing relationships is very important. When you see a challenge, go after it.”
Looking back at his days at Fullerton, Rohani recognizes that the Mihaylo program was vital to his development. “If I did not do the hospitality program here, I would not be doing what I am today,” he said.
Now in its eighth year, the college’s entertainment and hospitality management program has graduated more than 800 alumni, who work in the hotel, restaurant, motion picture, destination marketing and theme park sectors in Southern California and beyond and provide a versatile network for today’s students to find internships, jobs and mentoring.
Mihaylo’s Center for Entertainment and Hospitality Management (formerly the Entertainment & Tourism Management Center) prepares students for career opportunities by supporting the college’s academic program, offering networking events and supporting Behind the Scenes, a student club offering career development support and social activities. For more information, visit the center online or at SGMH 5357A.
Have you graduated from the program? Let us know what you are doing today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.