Dec. 06–BILOXI — The lobby was full of pumpkins and fall mums when Travis Lunn first visited Biloxi and the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.
Less than two weeks ago, he returned from Las Vegas as the new president and chief operating officer at the Beau Rivage and was greeted with a wonderland of Christmas trees, a collection of animated figures and pathways of poinsettias.
Lunn is the Beau's third president in just over two years. Bill Boasberg arrived at the Beau Rivage in fall 2017, and resigned a year later for personal reasons. Boasberg took over when former president Marcus Glover was named president and COO of Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
After just a week and a half, Lunn said he's eaten in all but one of the resort's restaurants and met Biloxi Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich.
What he hasn't done is arrive with the idea of making widespread changes. He wants to talk to the customers and get to know his staff of more than 3,000 employees, he said, before he looks for ways to make the experience better.
In the game
One thing already in the plans is to bump up the video and sound at the new sports bar after March Madness. Sports Book & Bar was pulled together quickly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ban on sports betting in May. Beau Rivage and its sister resort, Gold Strike in Tunica, were the first casinos in Mississippi to offer sports betting on Aug. 1.
Lunn said he plans to invest in the highest-quality video screens — even bigger than what is there now — and install a better sound system.
"It's just such an engaged sports community," he said. Besides the avid from fans on the Coast, he said many others drive over from Louisiana, Alabama and other states and pack the sports bar every weekend.
Working his way up
Originally from Boston, Lunn still has a trace of an accent and a Red Sox screensaver on his phone. He left New England for Nevada to attend University of Nevada at Las Vegas and graduated with a degree in hotel management, just as the big building boom was popping up new resorts all along the Vegas Strip.
He started at the front desk. He washed dishes and worked in housekeeping.
"I think that was instrumental in my ultimate success," he said. Working your way up, you develop an empathy for all those who work for you, he said.
"It keeps me humble. It keeps me grounded," he said.
After more than 25 years in the casino business, which took him to Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, the Venetian and Palazzo Resorts and finally to MGM Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, he still loves the casino industry, he said.
"You can go anywhere in the world with it," he said. "It's just a fun business."
He first visited Biloxi when the opportunity came up to manage the Beau Rivage. The building is wonderful, he said, and the location terrific, with miles of sand beaches and dolphins swimming nearby.
"We have a lot of Facebook and Instagram moments around this property," he said. But ultimately it won't be the soaring atrium full of fresh flowers that most impress guests, he said.
"The difference for us is also going to be our team members," he said, along with the service customers receive.
Paying it forward
Lunn was named Mentor of the Year for his work with students at UNLV and continues to mentor long distance.
"I'm a big believer of pay it forward," he said. He also helped put together MGM's Military & Veterans' Program.
"Work hard. There's no replacement for that," he tells those who ask his secret to his success.
His inspiration is Scott Sibella, who grew up in Las Vegas and much like Lunn worked his way up to become COO of MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Sibella appeared in the reality TV series "Undercover Boss" in 2010, Lunn said, and then used his discussions with the staff to improve working conditions.
"We can always get better," is one of Sibella's beliefs that Lunn said he most admires. Lunn said his job is at the Beau Rivage is to ask, "What can we do better?"
Mary Perez: 228-896-2354, @MaryPerezSH