Backed by more than 30 years of industry experience, Steven Cunningham has been named general manager of the Hilton University of Houston. Cunningham will lead the hotel throughout its $30.4 million expansion and renovation, announced this past February after bond approval from the University of Houston System Board of Regents. Projected completion of the hotel tower and renovations is late 2022 through early 2023.
Before joining the hotel in April, Cunningham served as general manager for three Wyndham hotels in Galveston – the Hotel Galvez & Spa, The Tremont House and Harbor House. Under his leadership, Hotel Galvez was named Wyndham Hotel of the Year in 2010. Two years later, Cunningham received Wyndham’s General Manager of the Year award.
Cunningham has also served as GM of Hotel ZaZa in Houston’s Museum District. Before that, he spent 19 years with Marriott International in such roles as general manager, area general manager and regional vice president. Most recently, Cunningham received the 2019 Outstanding General Manager of the Year Award by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a prestigious honor given only to the best in the United States.
Driven to make a difference by leading major ventures, the opportunity to take the helm during a significant period of growth is what drew Cunningham to our hotel and College. The post for a new general manager opened after Fernando Cuéllar announced his retirement earlier this year.
“Going through a hotel expansion is almost like opening a new business,” Cunningham said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but so much excitement also goes with all that planning. When it’s all said and done, our hotel will become a much more competitive force in the market.”
With the planned addition of a new tower and 71 guestrooms – bringing the hotel’s capacity to 151 rooms – Hilton University of Houston is poised to have a bigger share of the business when it comes to large group sales, including conferences, conventions and sports events. This will also mean a much more realistic learning experience for students at Hilton College who receive training at our hotel.
Hilton University of Houston’s unique history was also a draw for Cunningham, given his time working for historic properties. In 2011, Cunningham led the year-long centennial celebration of Hotel Galvez and worked closely with the George Mitchell family to promote and preserve the history of its hotel portfolio. This year, Hilton is celebrating its 100th anniversary, while Hilton College is celebrating 50 years.
“As our hotel grows, we will have new opportunities to shape our identity and share our story with the rest of the world,” Cunningham said. “The rich history of the College and this hotel is definitely part of that, and there will be so much more to come.”
A month into his tenure, Cunningham said he has enjoyed the experience of getting to know his exceptional staff, and the dynamics of collaborating with the College.
“We could not have chosen a better person to lead our hotel during this period of tremendous growth,” said Dean Dennis Reynolds, who is working closely with Cunningham on the next phase of the expansion. “With his wealth of industry knowledge and impeccable character, our hotel – and its partnership with the College – is in the best of hands.”
(Story & Photo: Pearl Cajoles)
Posted on May 23, 2019