Born in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, one might wonder how Tom Rasinen ended up working in hotels on the Gulf Coast.
“There weren’t that many schools to choose from back then,” says Tom. “I wanted to go to sunny Florida. I ended up at Florida State University and graduated with a degree in hospitality in 1976.”
After spending some time as a food and beverage director at a country club, Tom eventually walked into his first hotel in 1980.
“I was on vacation in Tarpon Springs, Florida at Innisbrook Resort,” Tom recalls. “A British man, who turned out to be the owner, wanted to know what I did for a living and told me he had an opening in catering. I didn’t even have a coat — I wasn’t ready to interview.”
Accepting that position would be the beginning of Tom’s 38-year career in hospitality. It was an opportunity in Sandestin that would eventually bring Tom to the panhandle.
“When I heard about the Hilton in Sandestin,” Tom says. “I remember wondering why someone would put a Hilton there.”
Luckily, that wouldn’t be the only time a Hilton would go up in a unique location.
“I was working at the Perdido Beach Hilton when I first met the Julian and the rest of the Innisfree team,” says Tom. “I just remember thinking that they were really good guys.”
Soon after, Tom had an opportunity to interview with Innisfree. But coming from full-service hotels, Tom admitted to being confused as to why Innisfree wanted to meet with him.
“I knew they weren’t managing any full-service properties,” says Tom. “Then they showed me a rendering of the Hilton on Pensacola Beach. I was sold.”
Tom took his skills in sales and connections on the Gulf Coast and put them to the ultimate test. He was selling a hotel that didn’t even exist yet.
“You have to imagine … I was making rack cards and displays with the rendering of the hotel,” he says. “I remember standing on nothing but an empty lot covered in sand and telling people, ‘We’re standing in the conference center.’I was lucky that a lot of people already knew me.”
For 16 years, Tom has been Director of Sales at the Hilton. Through hurricanes and oil spills, Tom can confidently point to someone that kept him on team Innisfree for all of these years.
“Julian,” he says. “Just his vision and commitment. Most companies these days have culture, but Julian was talking about culture before it was cool. Innisfree made a commitment to me, so I made a commitment to Innisfree.”
As Tom prepares to step away and enjoy retirement, he shared some parting wisdom that he has cultivated over years of working in hotels and sales.
“Consistency,” he says. “If I can tell you anything about this business, it’s that people do business with people they like doing business with. Even if the next hotel has more amenities than yours, you have to be the salesperson that people like.”
And if consistency is at the top of Tom’s list, David Cowles stepping in as Director of Sales should be a seamless transition.
“I literally watched this Hilton grow from the ground up,” says Tom. “It’s like having a baby, so you want to make sure you leave it in good hands. I know that David is a perfect fit — he already has the respect of the employees.”
Tom is looking forward to spending more time with his family, including his three sons and three grandsons during his retirement.
“I’m gonna get off the merry-go-round, take a look around and do things I didn’t have time to do,” he says. “Whether it’s golfing, diving or boating, I’m just going to try things.”
We are humbled and grateful for Tom’s years at Innisfree and wish him well in his retirement.