Retiring hotel director leaves legacy of a 5-star service

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Charles Cavill talks shop with his in his office at the New Sanno Hotel. He will retire May 19 after 16 years with the Navy-contracted hotel.
Charles Cavill talks shop with his in his office at the New Sanno Hotel. He will retire May 19 after 16 years with the Navy-contracted hotel.

Retiring hotel director leaves legacy of a 5-star service

by: Takahiro Takiguchi | .
Stripes Kanto | .
published: May 09, 2013

Charles Cavill remembers seeing a lot of action as a gunners mate aboard the USS John A. Bole during the Vietnam War. But it was his shore leave at Hong Kong’s President hotel after nine months in Can Tho, Vietnam, that affected him – and countless other U.S. service members in the Asia-Pacific region since 1997 – the most.

“We walked in the front door – and the service was wonderful!” he said, recalling the five-star inn’s ritzy polished-brass and marble interior. “It was a beautiful hotel. They had a piano bar, and the first night we stayed there the piano player asked us, ‘what songs do you want to hear?’ So we told him ‘Moon River’ and a couple of other famous songs. And every time we walked into that bar he started playing our song.”

It was in this lap of luxury, dining on prime rib and all the milk he could drink (both rarities aboard the USS Bole in 1968) that he had a revelation: “I figured, ‘the manager of this hotel has got it made – he’s got a good job.’ So that’s when I decided I want to get into the hotel business.”

Now, after 39 years in the business, Cavill will wrap up his last 16 as director of the Navy-contracted New Sanno Hotel in downtown Tokyo with a retirement party on May 19. 

“Coming back to a military facility and working with the military and troops has been really a pleasure for me,” said Cavill, who has managed seven hotels, including three Hiltons. His legacy at the New Sanno is spearheading major renovations. “I hope we contribute to the troops by keeping the price rates affordable while we continue to upgrade the hotel.”

During Cavill’s tenure, the New Sanno invested more than $30 million in renovations – all funded by hotel profits. The 2004-2005 improvements included the major task of enclosing the swimming pool indoors, and adding three meeting rooms, a fitness center, Jacuzzi, saunas and restrooms. The portico, lobby, all restaurants and lounge were all rebuilt as well as the second floor and basement, according to hotel officials.
“The hotel is 30 years old,” Cavill said. “Just like any building when it passes 30 years, you have to put money into keeping it up to modern standards.”

Cavill also made a name for himself, and the New Sanno, in the local community. He worked with locals to institute two community “Matsuri Festivals” which take place every September in Shin Hiroo and Minami Azabu, neighborhoods that the hotel straddles. As part of the festivities, mikoshi, or portable shrines, are paraded through the hotel, and locals are treated to snacks, beverages, a chance to try their hand at a dunk tank and a place to rest their feet during the day-long neighborhood festivals.

“Contributing to the local community is extremely important,” Cavill said. “I would like to thank them for being good neighbors and I appreciate everything they do.”

It’s all part of a leadership style that ingratiates the hotel director to people outside as well as inside of this four-star facility, according to Yoshiko Gough, New Sanno marketing manager.

“His stable reliability, personable nature and strong leadership encourage us to work beautifully together as a team,” Gough said. “However, it is not just the employees who love him; it is also a lot of people from the local communities.”

So what’s next for this affable and highly effective hotel director from Pittsburg, Pa.?

“We are building a house in Dallas, Texas,” Cavill said. He added his plans include what he did at New Sanno – overseeing a swimming pool construction project. “Then I plan to golf and fish. So, I won’t get bored for a while.” But that’s not all that he expects will keep him busy.

“I will probably miss the employees and local community members, but they all promised me to come and visit our new house in Dallas,” he said. “So I think our house will be a little Tokyo.”

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