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NEWS > Alumnae Profiles > A Dream Career in the Travel Industry

A Dream Career in the Travel Industry

While she was at LEH, Natasha Casillo (Betts), Class of 1996, fell in love with travel and decided she wanted to work in hospitality. She's now General Manager at the Courtyard Boston Downtown Hotel.

Having begun my LEH career in Form I of the Junior School and completing my education by progressing through the Senior School, alongside my two sisters Luisa and Tanya, I am a proud LEH alumna through and through.

However, my chosen career is one that differs from my classmates, many of whom have achieved incredible and honorable success in fields such as medicine, law, finance and the like.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to pursue a career in Hospitality Management, having a love of travel and a deep knowledge that work in a conventional corporate setting was not for me. At that time, career guidance at LEH on the path I had chosen was minimal and I knew that in order to turn this passion into my career, I would have to advocate for myself as I selected a university course.

I chose Oxford Brookes University’s Hotel and Restaurant Management programme, the best course at the time, although seemingly vocational and therefore atypical of an LEH graduate. This degree was geared predominantly towards business management in a hospitality environment, with a focus on accounting, people management and revenue generation.

After receiving my degree from Oxford Brookes University, I secured a job with Marriott International’s management training program in the United States where I began my hospitality career at large convention hotels in the thriving downtown Boston hotel market.

As an entry-level manager, I dedicated myself to learning all operational departments quickly, working my way up, before being appointed Director of Guest Services at the newly-opening Hotel Commonwealth, a luxury hotel steps from Boston’s famed Fenway Park and home of the Boston Red Sox. In this role, I managed all front-of-house operations for the property, supporting the General Manager in areas such as revenue management, budget generation and all financial-related matters pertaining to the success of the asset.

After spending seven years with the Hotel Commonwealth, building a reputation in the hospitality world as a strong female leader in a male-dominated industry, I took some time off to spend with my two young boys. Realising quickly that staying at home entirely was not where I thrived, my return to work included a brief time with British Airways where my skillset translated well to leadership in another facet of the hospitality and tourism industry, holding a Premium Team Lead position and managing travel experiences for VIP passengers at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

In 2013, I found myself drawn back to the hotel industry and was appointed Director of Front Office at the InterContinental Boston, where I managed the entirety of the front of house operation and played a critical role in the hotel achieving many award-winning titles.

Having established a proven track record for leadership in a luxury hotel operations in Boston, I then returned to Hotel Commonwealth as Director of Rooms, leading all facets of the rooms division for the property (Front Office, Housekeeping, Engineering, Security, Concierge, Bell and Door), managing a budget of over $20MM, and achieving financial growth for the hotel and successfully managing a $55MM expansion project, bringing the hotel from 149 rooms to 245 and securing it as one of Boston’s premier luxury destinations.

The development aspect of hotels quickly became an area I enjoyed and had great success in, leading me to seek my next role as General Manager of a hotel in the early phases of development.

Swapping baseball for ice hockey and basketball, I was selected to spearhead the development and management of a new hotel for Fontainebleau Development, one of the country’s premier real estate development and hospitality groups known for its luxury properties such as the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami and Fontainebleau Las Vegas.

This time on the other side of the city in Boston’s North End neighborhood, steps from the TD Garden, home of the renowned and highly decorated Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics. Tasked with creating a name for Fontainebleau Development in their first foray into the New England market, it was critical that this property exceed traveler expectations and return on investment for the owners.

As the General Manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Boston Downtown/North Station, I am responsible for the generation and management of the hotel’s $25MM annual budget, overseeing the overall management of the property; its resources, staff, and growth strategy and serving as the leader, managing the hotel from ground-up construction to today.

Under my leadership, the hotel has won Courtyard by Marriott Hotel Opening of the Year, Number One Traveller-Ranked Hotel on TripAdvisor in Boston and consistently enjoys a position in the top 3% of hotels in the brand across the globe. In Boston’s highly competitive and ever-changing market, my role as General Manager requires me to keep a constant pulse on travel trends, market development, unemployment trends and risk management.

As a female leader in a heavily male-dominated industry, I feel a responsibility to other women to provide the ability to juggle the demands of both motherhood and professional success, that during the beginning of my career was uncommon. The operational hours in this industry are rewarding but difficult to manage as a mother.

My experience at LEH taught me that women can and should have the opportunity to be successful both personally and professionally and I am proud to be a steward of that philosophy in this industry. With a leadership team comprised of 70% women, I have worked hard to create an environment that allows women to have just that, and I am grateful that LEH shaped that foundation for me.

There are many elements in my current role that fulfill me professionally. Aside from the overall management of the business, I work alongside an incredibly diverse workforce, with employees from all over the world at varying levels of education and English language competency. My role provides me the opportunity to recognize and develop talent, encouraging and enabling professional growth and development that impacts generations of families. Throughout my tenure, I have aided my employees in ensuring their children are the first in their family to attend university, provided assistance in buying a family’s first home, and offered career path progression that is life-changing financially.

In addition to the incredible team I have worked with over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside an array of interesting guests. There is never a dull moment in a hotel, from celebrity guests including Jane Fonda, Diana Ross, Matthew McConaughey, Bon Jovi and many more, to the colorful characters such as naked sleepwalkers, chronic bed wetters and drunken stag dos resulting in $20k in guest room damage, I have seen and dealt with it all!

Thinking back on my time at LEH, I am most grateful for the friendships I have built and maintained despite time and physical distance. To this day, I am lucky to call my LEH classmates my closest friends and have found their individual and very different successes to have been instrumental in my own determination to succeed throughout my career, often calling upon them for valuable advice and support.

I am proud to say that the education and experiences I received at LEH have helped me succeed in an industry that is highly focused on confidence, business acumen, problem-solving and people management skills. I firmly believe that these soft skills should not be overlooked when considering life after education, as they are the very things that have helped to shape my career and what I am most grateful for.

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