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Why Create The Innovative Hotelier Podcast?

Jeff Weinstein, Editor in Chief of HOTELS magazine, chats with Robin Trimingham, The Innovative Hotelier Podcast Host about the origins of Jeff’s interest in the hospitality sector and why now is the ideal time for HOTELS Magazine to launch its own podcast series to advance the magazine’s position as the leading source of hospitality industry insights and information.

In this broad-based conversation, Jeff also touches on the rapid transformation currently taking place throughout the hotel industry and the importance of applying alternative logic in assessing new business opportunities that promote holistic wellness, humanity, and profitability within the hotel sector; and the opportunity to use The Innovative Hotelier as a platform for hotel industry thought leaders to share ideas and best practices with the listening audience.

Click the play button above to listen to our conversation with Jeff Weinstein.

Highlights from Today’s Episode

  • A quick insight at Jeff’s background and how he developed his passion for his profession which led him to being chief editor of “HOTELS” magazine.
  • How the hospitality industry has transformed throughout the past years.
  • How the The Innovative Hotelier Podcast series is going to transfer HOTELS into an advanced level in the industry.
  • How the pandemic impacted the travel and hotel industry.

Episode Transcript

Robin: magazine. I’m your host, Robin Trimingham, and my guest today is Jeff Weinstein, editor of “HOTELS” magazine. Welcome, Jeff.

Jeff: Hi, Robin. Good to be here.

Robin: Well, thank you so much for finding some time to chat with me today. Let’s give everybody just a tiny little bit of background about you. You’re a career journalist, as I’m sure everybody knows. What interested you most about the opportunity to become editor in chief of “HOTELS” magazine, and what’s kept you intrigued about the hotel space as you went along?

Jeff: You know, I’ve never worked at a hotel a day of my life, quite honestly. But, at heart, I believe I’m an innkeeper. I really like taking care of people, so writing about people who do it is a calling for me. I really love talking to hoteliers. They’re so polished, they probably speak three languages, they are dressed impeccably, they know so much about food and wine. They’re just really impressive people. And, of course, they have the spirit of hospitality, which really speaks to me. I feel very fortunate to have had this career interviewing hoteliers and following this industry. It’s been a lot of fun.

Robin: I have to agree with you. Unlike you, I have worked in the hotel space. And what I always loved so much was the passion that people brought to the job when they walked through the door, and just how much people who work in the hotel space really do care about other people. In your mind, how has the hospitality landscape changed or evolved, if you will, during your watch?

Jeff: My watch is now 28 years. So I remember the start of lifestyle, Kimptons and Schragers really starting to change the box. Those big boxy predictable hotels were still, pretty much, commonplace. But it started to change in the ’80s and into the ’90s where style mattered more, where flare mattered more. And, today, lifestyle is ubiquitous. Every hotel is a lifestyle hotel now. Even the limited-service hotels for the big brand are built with a lifestyle element. So that’s the big change is not being so predictable, not being so bland, if you will, and making a hotel stay an experience. That’s probably the biggest change I’ve witnessed over my career covering the hotel business.

Robin: I think this is a fascinating time in the industry because everything is in the midst of change, and innovation, and everybody looking at new ways to service people safely. How is the addition of “The Innovative Hotelier Podcast” going to advance “HOTELS'” position as the leading source of hospitality industry insights and information?

Jeff: Look, for me, it’s about who we talk to. They’re the ones with all the knowledge, they’re the ones who are the innovators, and it’s up to us to find them and to bring out of them their knowledge. We want them to be thought leaders. We want them to help educate our listeners. And it’s up to us to ask the right questions, find the right people, and be on the edge. It’s not gonna be PR. It’s going to be hard-hitting, I hope, also humor, and maybe a little bit funny. But more importantly, educational. I want this to be practical, and I want there to be takeaways for our listeners. Something that they can apply to their own businesses. And if we find the right people, I think we can be really successful with this.

Robin: I think you’ve just about answered my next question, but let’s see if we can reframe this one. You’re going to be doing a few of these interviews yourself, I understand. What areas do you really wanna focus on or explore in your conversations?

Jeff: Yeah. Right now, what has me most intrigued, I call it alt-lodging. And I think a lot of people are starting to recognize the emergence of alternative hotel spaces. Everybody is creating an extended-stay lifestyle brand. There are brands like Sonder emerging and Selina emerging that are not traditional, but they have a really unique take on hospitality and are very forward-looking based on changing demographics. And, actually, what this pandemic has brought to the business, how people are traveling differently.

And there are a lot of really interesting players out there now who are attracting a lot of capital. And talking to them, and finding out how they’re operating differently, how they’re developing differently I think is gonna be a really interesting play for us.

Robin: I couldn’t agree with you more. I also do a lot of writing and thinking about the way that humanity is transitioning through all of this. When I was doing a little bit of background for this conversation with you, I came across a podcast interview that you actually gave almost exactly two years ago. And you were talking about just this, the paradigm shift that’s going to be required for the hotel industry to resume normal operations and move forward. What surprised you most about the direction that this recovery has been taking?

Jeff: I don’t think I’ve really been surprised. Depending on who you wanna believe and the various points of view by industry leaders, this is a business that cannot fail because travel has become a birthright. Everybody wants to get out, conditions just have to be right. And these last two years, obviously, conditions were impossible, so now there’s all this pent-up demand and business is gonna come roaring back. And I even think business travel is gonna come roaring back maybe a little slower than leisure. So it’s really about maintaining standards, creating experiences, which people seem to want more than marble bathtubs, and providing service I think is gonna be key, and that’s gonna be the biggest challenge. Because there’s obviously a labor issue that everybody is dealing with, and finding the right people to provide that level of service that will create loyalty is going be probably the biggest challenge the industry is going to face in the near term. But bigger picture, halcyon days are ahead in my humble opinion.

Robin: You just mentioned the business-travel industry and the fact that it might not be recovering as fast as leisure, which from what I’ve read is sort of contrary to what they had initially thought would happen. They had initially speculated in a lot of ways that business travel would get back in the air first because it would have to. It’s no secret that meetings and events have been particularly hard hit by all of this. Do you think that people still have a fundamental need to gather face to face? And if you think that, how do you think this sector is going to look different in a year or two when things are going to settle down?

Jeff: Absolutely, the face-to-face is going to be necessary, and more than anything, just desired. You know, people want to gather. It’s human nature to get together, do business face to face versus a Zoom call, so I think it’s just a matter of time. The level of come for all business travels to return, and I think things will return. Maybe there might be a 10% dip in convention business where some of these big conventions that attracted thousands and thousands, maybe they’ll be 10% less ongoing because people might not see the need like they used to because they’ve learned to operate differently in these last two years. They know there are other ways of doing business. But is it gonna really affect the business longer term? In my opinion, again, I think it’ll come back strong because there’s just too much of that human nature where people want to gather, and there’s a lot of pleasure derived.

You know, there’s what they call bleisure now. People are combining business and leisure. So you’ll see more people maybe taking a few less trips, but longer trips where they’re gonna combine business and leisure. So I think the industry is gonna come back. It’s just a matter of getting a little bit more comfortable with travel, and, hopefully, that’s gonna be not too far in the distant future.

Robin: I agree with you. I do think that people really do have a fundamental need to meet face to face and that there’s a level of interaction that you achieve there that’s really just not possible even in the best Zoom meeting, if you will. In your opinion, what’s the most important lesson that the industry can learn from the upheaval of this very unprecedented health crisis?

Jeff: Yeah. Well, I guess that depends on your point of view. From my perspective, it’s empathy. It’s learning how to better take care of your own people, and how to take care of yourself a little better, and, of course, your guests. And I think there’s been a real comeuppance. Everybody has always been in a rush to run the numbers, meet all the proformas, quarterly numbers. And maybe these last two years have caused everybody to maybe pause a little bit and think about what really matters. And especially when it comes to staffing, taking care of your people. Sure you’re gonna need to pay them more. But you need to, again, take better care of them, and I think that’s one of the bigger takeaways. In the interviews I’ve done over the last two years, that’s what a lot of executives have been telling me. That this has caused them to take a moment and really think about what’s important, and what’s gonna matter as far as tending to their business going forward. And having the right team in place that feels comfortable that doesn’t wanna resign is gonna be crucial. So being a little bit more empathetic, a little more flexible, and a little bit more understanding of your guest’s needs and how they’re evolving is the most important thing from my perspective.

Robin: I think you’re right. In the core of a lot of corporate businesses across a whole spectrum of industries, they’re really thinking and rethinking the concept of HR itself. In fact, from what I’ve been seeing lately, they’re even doing away with the term human resources, and they’re starting to have new job titles like “people specialists,” which I think is a really good thing. Because, you know, the old days of IBM, and the blue shirts, and we’re just going to all be little automated whatever, that doesn’t really work for humanity for the long term, so I think these are all really good changes. Where do you, from where you sit, see opportunities for growth, or I’m gonna call it introduction of new products in the coming year or two in the hotel space?

Jeff: Well, again, the extended-stay market is booming. Everybody is developing extended-stay concepts from the lowest level of budget extended stay that’s very cost-effective to lifestyle extended-stay products that will resonate with business travelers, with families. There’s a lot of multi-generational traveling going on, so they’re looking for bigger spaces and an extended stay that has more of a lifestyle component to it might prove to be really opportunistic. You’re seeing hotel companies get into vacation rental because, again, consumers are learning how to travel a little bit more non-traditionally than they have in the past. So I think there’s a great opportunity in building a vacation rental platform. And for the most part, you’re seeing growth in leisure segments and in secondary markets where there’s a little bit more open space, where it’s not so congested, not so urban.

But that said, you can’t beat New York City, you can’t beat some of these major hubs. They may be a little bit downtrodden at the moment. But give it another year, maybe two, and you’re gonna see developers and acquirers looking to buy in those markets because they’re forever markets, and they just might come back a little slower.

Robin: I think this is a very timely time to introduce a podcast that’s gonna be talking about hotels and innovation. Let’s leave everybody with a final thought from you. You’ve talked a lot in your writing lately about holistic wellness, and empathy, and humanity. What’s your key message for everybody who listens to this podcast that’s going to get them to come and wanna hear the next episode?

Jeff: That’s a good question, Robin. There has been a little, I dunno if I’d call it the fundamental shift, but I would say there’s been a human shift in the business because of the pandemic. And I’ve touched on it already from the operations standpoint of people being a little bit more empathetic and a little bit more flexible about how they work with their teams and work with their guests, you know, understand their guests’ needs and wants. So I’m hoping that we’re able to talk to the thought leaders who are actually making it happen, who are not just going back to business as usual. Some people think that’s where we’re headed. It’s just that this was a serious blip, but nonetheless a blip and we’re gonna be back to business as usual by 2024. And I don’t know if it’s as simple as that. And I’d like to find the people who are really trailblazers, who are understanding the need to operate and develop differently, and find out what’s on their minds and share it with our readers. I think that’s what we can bring to the table that perhaps nobody else is doing right now.

Robin: I completely agree with you, and I think there’s gonna be some very insightful messages for everybody who listens in. Thank you so much for your time, Jeff. You’ve been listening to “The Innovative Hotelier Podcast” brought to you by “HOTELS” magazine. Join us again soon for more up-to-the-minute insights and information specifically for the hotel industry sector. Take care of, everyone.

You’ve been listening to “The Innovative Hotelier Podcast” by “HOTELS” magazine. Join us again soon for more conversations with hospitality industry thought leaders.