Downtown News and Blog

Checking in with Downtown's Top Hoteliers

April 12, 2019 Written by Julia Partain

Published in Downtown News and Blog

Running a successful hotel, as you might guess, is no small thing. Inspiring and retaining team members; increasing sales and brand awareness; staying on the cutting edge of design, technology, and culinary trends; and giving back to the communities in which they operate are just a few of the challenges hotel managers tackle on a day-to-day basis. Here we introduce you to two downtown Salt Lake City hoteliers who make the complicated juggling act of running a hotel look easy.

Meet the Players:

Abby Murtagh, General Manager of Hilton Salt Lake City Center (255 S. West Temple St, Hilton.com), began her career in hospitality and catering even earlier than Opsahl, when she was just 14. Murtagh grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and enjoyed cooking for friends and family. She took her passion to the next level by launching her own successful catering company, Abigail’s Catering Service. It was then that the self-taught entrepreneur knew she had a future in the industry.

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Murtagh earned a bachelor’s degree from The Cornell School of Hotel Administration with a concentration in Food and Beverage. Her hospitality path continued with leadership positions at Hershey Entertainment and Resort Company, Interstate, Kimpton and Hilton. Murtagh served as Resident Manager at the prestigious Waldorf Astoria New York before moving to Salt Lake. “As the leader of the Hilton Salt Lake City, I make it our priority to be the best we can be each and every day and make a difference to our guests, our team and our owners,” says Murtagh. “I offer the perspective of having lived in nine states and working with diverse cultures and environments.”

Entering his thirteenth year as General Manager of Salt Lake City Marriott City Center (220 S. State St, marriott.com), Doug Koob is well versed in the eclectic downtown hotel scene. The Kansas City, Missouri native graduated in business communications and then entered the hospitality world to work and travel with Marriott International. Sales and marketing positions took him to various parts of the U.S. and in 1994, he landed in Utah.

General manager was the next step for Koob, serving in this position at various properties around Salt Lake and Ogden. His current downtown location is in the heart of the city and that is one of the selling points for Koob and his hotel. “Downtown Salt Lake is clean, welcoming and has a very positive vibe for our guests,” says Koob. “It makes my job easier for guests to come back when the city sells itself.”

Standing Out from the Crowd

Hilton’s innovative approach to technology, amenities and service resonates at Murtagh’s property. The tech-savvy lobby welcomes guests and provides charging stations and the fastest Wi-Fi in the city. They offer the latest in hotel technology with the Digital Key and recently installed charging stations for electric vehicles. The pet-friendly 499-room hotel features 19 suites (the most of any hotel in the city) and flexible meeting space.

Murtagh’s passion for quality dining shines through at the hotel’s renowned steakhouse, Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops. The Best of State-awarded restaurant and winner of the 2017 and 2018 Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence delivers contemporary and seasonal dishes, local produce and cheeses as well as cocktails, local craft beers and 497 labels of wine. Her favorite dish? The burrata salad and house-made watermelon sorbet.

Koob believes that the Marriott’s distinct location next to popular tourist attractions (City Creek, Temple Square and Gallivan Center) and the new downtown developments (the Eccles Theatre, Regent Street and the financial district) is what separates his hotel property from others. Weekend travelers looking to get away and see the sights find comfort in Marriott’s spacious guest rooms and La Bella Piastra, the hotel’s signature Italian restaurant. Weekdays bring in individual business travelers, giving them convenient access to downtown businesses. “Our hotel stays true to Marriott International’s vision of providing a distinctive property geared toward the business and leisure traveler,” Koob says.