“Grit is inherently unique to every single person, which is why I find myself drawn to it like the Gulf to the shore.”

This is how Jason Nicholson, Vice President of Hotel Operations for Innisfree Hotels,  explained to me his climb from poverty, beginning at the age of 13 from the yard of a concrete plant.

During our interview, I was inspired by his excitement for the industry and empowered by his massive amount of grit – and the way he uses it to positively impact others.

With more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, he seemed to have quite a few things figured out when I sat down to chat with him. As a former Marine and longtime hotelier, Nicholson brings an unwavering force of strength to the table that sets the foundation for the operations of Innisfree Hotels.

In an industry rooted in guest experience, he is focused on one thing – improving our collective quality of life. By investing in the source, Nicholson has solved the equation to ‘creating fun, memorable experiences’ for all who come into contact with the fast-growing management company.

“My job is fun. I get to influence the quality of life of the people I work with and serve and have lots of resources to do it,” he explains.

As a Gulf Coast resident for most of his life, Nicholson has been involved with tourism in Escambia County in one way or another for 18 years. Upon his initial encounter with Pensacola tourism development, he noticed there was a general ignorance in the Greater Pensacola community of what tourism does for our area.

Through his various roles, Nicholson constantly asks himself how he can help the community and improve the economy. And he isn’t afraid to step on any toes.

“I don’t have to repay any favors, so I can speak freely,” he says.

Over the years, he has made it his mission to establish a strong foundation and educate the community. Through the committees he has served, his voice has been a channel of influence. Now, as incoming Board Chair for Visit Pensacola, he plans to convey the same qualities upon which Innisfree was built.

At any given time, you can find him with a handy Innisfree Hotels 10 Commandments card in his pocket. Derived from the work of every level of teammate and upheld by Innisfree founders Julian and Kim MacQueen, these commandments stand as a pillar for how all members of the team should work together to serve guests.

Continually, Jason lives and teaches the principle that “hospitality is a way to change the world … one guest at a time.”

He explained to me that every person who comes into an Innisfree property will have an experience – but it’s up to the team what that experience will be. Over the next year, we’ll all get an inside look at just what it means to create those fun, memorable experiences, with Jason Nicholson at the helm of our board.

“My largest piece of advice would have to be don’t be afraid to say ‘yes,’ and be ready to work hard,” he shares. “You’re going to get frustrated at times, but it’ll all be worth it when you make a positive impact on someone’s life.”

Interview by Lindsey Steck, Visit Pensacola