Robert Kisabeth was already a veteran hotelier in 2002 when he was given the corporate assignment to move to Northwest Arkansas to oversee the opening of a new hotel.
Working for John Q. Hammons Hotels Inc., Kisabeth had been the opening general manager of the Embassy Suites Convention Center Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2000. It went so well, he was chosen to be the first GM for the Embassy Suites in Rogers, which opened its doors in May 2003, with 248 rooms and 20,000 SF of meeting space. Expanded to 400 rooms in July 2007 with the addition of a 152-room spa tower, built to accommodate the adjacent John Q. Hammons Center, it is easily the area’s largest hotel.
During a recent interview, Kisabeth recalled being in on the ground floor of the area’s signature hospitality development. His recollection was underscored by a specific memory from the hotel’s top floor.
“Every time I think of my time in Rogers, I think of the building [construction] being topped off, and I went up to the roof to have a look,” he explained. “Everywhere you looked — north, south, east and west — was just fields. Nothing but fields. I thought, ‘This is crazy. Where is this business going to come from?’”
Kisabeth, 45, laughed when sharing that story. He has many of them from a hospitality career that will reach a quarter of a century next year. The profession has led him to live in 16 different cities in the United States, currently in Denver as president of High Velocity Hospitality, a management company owned by hotel operator Miller Global Properties.
But when asked about the best place he’s lived, the answer is always the same.
“I always come back to Rogers,” said Kisabeth, who lived in Northwest Arkansas from 2002 to 2004, and was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class of 2004. He also was a board member for the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce and the Rogers A&P Commission.
“When I moved to Rogers, 80 percent of the people were not from there and had just moved there. So there was a lot of commonality with that with me and my family. No one really knew anyone, but it was really easy to get to know people. It was a comfortable place to live.”
Kisabeth left Rogers in January 2005 for another JQH property, the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center, which has 300 rooms and 60,000 SF of convention space.
From there, Kisabeth’s career wound to Ohio in October 2006, to become the GM of the Millennium Hotel, the largest hotel in Cincinnati, with 872 rooms.
He later took a job as an area manager with hospitality management company Windsor Capital Group in California, a company that landed the management contract for the 403-suite Embassy Suites Denver-Downtown/Convention Center.
Kisabeth was the GM when it opened in December 2010 — marking his third hotel grand opening and his 11th GM position. The following year he was named Embassy Suites’ General Manager of the Year.
In 2012, Kisabeth joined Miller Global and was chosen to head up High Velocity when it launched in January 2013. He’s a 30-percent owner in the management company, which has third-party contracts to manage two Embassy Suites properties, both in northern Virginia.
He said the company expects to enter into two additional management contracts before the end of the year, with a long-term goal to have 25 properties under management in the next five years.
He said Northwest Arkansas is definitely on the company’s radar.
“Absolutely it is,” he said. “With the management team and the hotel expertise we have, we’re interested in all parts of the country.”
Kisabeth, who graduated from Michigan State University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in business and hotel/restaurant management, has two teenage boys and enjoys doing “some crazy things.”
To wit, he recently completed the Triple Bypass, a 120-mile road bike race that covers more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain over three of Colorado’s highest paved passes: Squaw (11,140 feet), Loveland (11,990 feet) and Vail (10,560 feet).
“Last year I did a triathlon and my weakest part was the bike ride,” he said. “So I decided this year I would try one of the hardest races in the country for an amateur and try to improve the cycling. That should help me for the next [triathlon].”