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Epilogue to a Landmark Career

The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, May 2, 2014 … Benchmark Hospitality International®, a leading U.S.-based hospitality management company, has announced the retirement of James Simkins, Chief Operating Officer, Personal Luxury Resorts & Hotels® collection.  Mr. Simkins made the announcement himself.

"Following 42 years in the world that we refer to as hospitality, my active participation has come to an end," said Mr. Simkins.  "I welcome the opportunity to move on to attend to many areas of interest which have been in the background for a long time.  This move has been motivated some years earlier than I had intended due to recent health challenges I've encountered."

Commenting on the retirement of his friend and colleague, Burt Cabañas, Benchmark's Founder & Chairman, stated, "James Simkins is a consummate hotelier of the world.  He came up through the ranks like so many of us, was mentored by hotel executives who became legends in the industry, and left an indelible mark on the concepts in today's hotels, and more importantly, how service is anticipated and delivered to guests.  He had a transformative effect on Benchmark Hospitality's new Personal Luxury Resorts & Hotels brand and on our company at multiple levels.  I'm grateful for his remarkable commitment to the industry, and his leadership, which I value as a friend."

A Career Epilogue

Mr. Simkins recently reflected on his decision to retire and on his career trajectory filled with opportunities, professional milestones, and on the joy of the people he met along the way.  "As I reflect on this difficult decision to retire, I realize just how fortunate I have been in my career.  This sense is very definitely underpinned by the quality and diversity of the hotels for which I have expended my best efforts over the years.  Without exception these hotels have been at the top of their game in terms of quality, complexity, innovation, challenge, destinations … how lucky I've been!"  

James Simkins has appreciated the opportunity over the years to manage in the style he loves.  The most significant element of his career, though, has been the people he's encountered along the way.  "I was really fortunate to spend the early formative years of my career learning from many of the finest hoteliers from around the world, and learn I did!  As time progressed I found myself surrounded by fellow professionals and other very special people who shared and contributed to what I had to offer and have in turn done well, developing global careers and lives, many of great note."

Sharing the center stage of his life is his family, which, according to Simkins, was instrumental in enabling his professional life of travel, adventure and opportunity.   "I was lucky enough to have a family that grasped the opportunities of living in multiple countries on multiple continents and who used this global platform to demonstrate and actualize their own unique and special talents.  This was essential to our common sense of personal and professional well-being and happiness."

A Landmark Career

A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, James Simkins launched his remarkable hospitality career with Westin Hotels & Resorts, eventually serving in a number of senior leadership assignments across the globe.  These included The Carlton in South Africa, Kowloon Shangri-La in Hong Kong, and The Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, where he served as Manager and then Managing Director.

Success in California brought him to The Westin Tokyo, and he was invited to open the property as Managing Director and to also assume corporate responsibilities as Vice President Operations for Westin International Asia Pacific.  He completed a 28-year tenure with Westin in Australia, building and opening the Westin Sydney for the 2000 Olympics.

Mr. Simkins returned to the United States to take a partnership position with the newly developed MTM Luxury Lodging, a creative hotel management company specializing in the innovative and profitable operation of luxury boutique properties in the Pacific Northwest.  The company included within its high-end luxury portfolio such jewels as Willows Lodge, Hotel 1000, Alderbrook, the historic Sorrento Hotel, eventually expanding east to include Boston's Liberty Hotel, an exciting luxury property retrofitted into the former Charles Street Jail.  The company then turned its sights on California, developing both the Ivy Hotel in San Diego, and what was to become the top LEED Platinum Certified hotel in the world - Bardessono in Yountville, Napa Valley.  

James joined Benchmark Hospitality International upon the company's purchase of MTM Luxury Lodging in 2011, immediately assuming a leadership position on Benchmark's executive team and the company's Board of Directors.  He was appointed Chief Operating Officer for the Personal Luxury Resorts & Hotels collection, which was in its infancy in brand development and now included the MTM Luxury Lodging properties James knew so well.  In his new role, Simkins was largely responsible for the evolution of Benchmark's new Personal Luxury brand, and its growth to include twelve hotels and resorts.  

How do you measure success?  In many ways, to include what lingers in the hearts of one's fellow employees and team members.  To a person, they would say what continues is James' infectious enthusiasm for the hospitality industry, his endless clarion calls for superior customer service that anticipates needs before the guest is even aware of them, and his unique and highly stylized sense of humor.  Though retiring from day-to-day operations, James will remain active on the Benchmark Hospitality Board of Directors, continuing to help guide the company to new levels of growth and success.  This growth will be, in part, his lingering legacy, a monument to his remarkable career and his fascinating life.  James' hospitality impact, however, plays out in every encounter with a guest at a Personal Luxury property, in every action and in every gesture.  When guests check out with a feeling of transformation and transcendence, James will be in that experience.

About Benchmark Hospitality International

Benchmark Hospitality International® is a recognized global leader in the management and marketing of resorts, hotels and conference centers. The company's two distinctive portfolios of properties, Benchmark Resorts & Hotels® and Personal Luxury Resorts & Hotels®, represent the finest in guest-dedicated hospitality in unique destinations across the United States, in the Caribbean and Japan. As a founding member of the International Association of Conference Centers, Benchmark Conference Centers® maintain the highest standards for certification in meeting excellence. Benchmark Hospitality was launched in 1980 as an independent company and today operates worldwide from offices in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, and regional offices in New Jersey, Washington State, Japan and Chile. For additional company information visit To become a fan on Facebook, visit, or follow us on Twitter at

Contact: Ken Ellens / 201-758-2864

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