Rein­vent­ing hospi­tal­ity in the Ex­pe­ri­ence Econ­omy

An exclusive interview with Jerry Inz­er­illo, out­go­ing CEO of Forbes Travel Guide

The Insider - - CONTENTS -

The ho­tel in­dus­try, like so many oth­ers, is liv­ing in tur­bu­lent times. Buf­feted by mas­sive changes in tech­nol­ogy and con­sumer be­hav­ior (in­clud­ing the rise in On­line Travel plat­forms and the Ex­pe­ri­ence Econ­omy) the hospi­tal­ity sec­tor finds it­self in a state of per­pet­ual trans­for­ma­tion as it tries to rein­vent it­self for a more prof­itable and sus­tain­able fu­ture.

In our ef­forts to un­der­stand the state of this in­dus­try, I reached out to a rec­og­nized ex­pert in the space — the CEO of Forbes Travel Guide from 2014 to 2018, Mr. Ger­ard (Jerry) Inz­er­illo.

Here is a tran­script of our very can­did dis­cus­sion in June 2018 where Jerry not only lays it on the line about the dis­rup­tors in the in­dus­try, he also gives us in­sights into what in­spires him and what keeps him awake at night. I think his commentary will both sur­prise and de­light you.

Thank you so much Jerry, for tak­ing time out of your busy sched­ule to chat with me about the cur­rent state of the ho­tel

in­dus­try, in­clud­ing the lux­ury sec­tor where you’ve spent the past four years.

To clar­ify things a bit for those who aren’t as fa­mil­iar with Forbes Travel Guide rat­ings, what dis­tin­guishes a four or five-star ho­tel from a three-star ho­tel, not in terms of the list of ameni­ties they pro­vide, but in terms of their in­ter­ac­tion with guests and the ex­pe­ri­ences that they cre­ate?

I'm asked that ques­tion of­ten and it's ac­tu­ally a very ex­cel­lent ques­tion. Here's the way we frame that. To­day, there is a much higher level of ex­pec­ta­tion from guests who are more so­phis­ti­cated.

One of the good as­pects of the in­ter­net is that peo­ple are more in­formed; peo­ple are more cu­ri­ous. With the pro­lif­er­a­tion of ca­ble tele­vi­sion, peo­ple have a lot of in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially vis­ual in­for­ma­tion.

In terms of the lux­ury cat­e­gory, when Forbes Travel Guide started in 1958 as Mo­bil Travel Guide, it was a ver­i­fi­ca­tion mech­a­nism to pro­tect all con­sumers. For 55 years, we stayed true to the orig­i­nal form of the com­pany, which was the One-, Two-, Three-, Four-, and Five-Star rat­ing sys­tem. It gave peo­ple, who pri­mar­ily trav­eled in their cars through­out North Amer­ica, some­one that they could trust.

Now, it's dif­fer­ent. In the low-trans­ac­tional mar­ket­places, which are the pro­lific one- and two-star ho­tels where lev­els of ex­pec­ta­tion are lower, we stopped re­view­ing those ho­tels be­cause it was far too sub­jec­tive and quite frankly not the base au­di­ence of what our peo­ple wanted. So we said, in or­der to get the cov­eted Rec­om­mended sta­tus, which was the re­place­ment for what used to be re­ferred to as the Three-Star ho­tel, there had to be a com­pli­ance to about 800 stan­dards. Most of that com­pli­ance was in be­hav­ioral in­ter­ac­tion in ser­vice and in greet­ing.

In or­der to make Rec­om­mended, you re­ally have to have a high com­pe­tency of

tech­ni­cal con­ti­nu­ity. In other words, was the first guest ex­pe­ri­ence the same as the sec­ond? Was the food con­sis­tently hot, was it con­sis­tently de­li­cious, was there a sense of wel­come, was the prop­erty clean, was it well-main­tained, and did it have di­ver­si­fied ameni­ties? Th­ese gen­eral cat­e­gories break down into hospi­tal­ity, an­tic­i­pa­tory ser­vice, clean­li­ness, safety and se­cu­rity, re­pair and main­te­nance, gra­cious­ness, etc.

With 3,000 in­spec­tions a year and over a hun­dred mar­ket­places ge­o­graph­i­cal­ly­dis­tributed around the world, we have a very, very good per­spec­tive of global stan­dards that sep­a­rate the Rec­om­mended sta­tus — the for­mer Three-Star — and the Olympic gold medal — or the Four-Star.

Peo­ple who win the gold medal have a much higher sen­si­tiv­ity to the emo­tional com­po­nent of travel, which is en­gage­ment, gra­cious­ness, an­tic­i­pat­ing guests’ needs, and sat­is­fy­ing guests’ ex­pec­ta­tions. Be­com­ing a Four-Star re­quires a greater con­sis­tency of the emo­tional en­gage­ment and touch­points. Not the phys­i­cal touch­points — the emo­tional touch­points, which make guests feel, “Wow, that was ac­tu­ally dif­fer­ent. That was ac­tu­ally bet­ter than I ex­pected.”

But when you float to the 199 Five-Stars, which we re­fer to as the “Michael Phelps,” those prop­er­ties do it at such a high, con­sis­tent level, year af­ter year, that their level of de­vo­tion and ex­e­cu­tion al­most be­comes cul­tural, with­out be­ing overly pro­grammed.

They have taken it to such a cul­tural level that they per­form with un­canny con­sis­tency, gra­cious­ness, and thought­ful­ness, that it el­e­vates them into an elite sta­tus that's al­most peer­less.

Her­mes didn't be­come Her­mes in one year. Fer­rari didn't be­come Fer­rari in one year. The rea­son why some of the more glam­orous lux­ury brands have their rep­u­ta­tions is be­cause they earned them over a very long pe­riod of time with a trust fac­tor and the pres­tige fac­tor that sep­a­rated them very dis­tinc­tively from their com­pe­ti­tion.

But the peril in that is that if lux­ury brands don't rein­vent, they face the prob­lem of los­ing their au­di­ence be­cause they didn't adapt with the times. We know many lux­ury brands that no longer ex­ist be­cause they failed to adapt.

In terms of brands’ fail­ure to adapt to the changes in con­sumer be­hav­ior and ex­pec­ta­tions, if we zero in on those changes and fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy, how are ho­tels us­ing tech­nol­ogy to en­hance that cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, to pro­vide that wow fac­tor that guests are look­ing for?

We have two very ma­jor feel­ings on tech­nol­ogy. Any­thing that en­hances the guest ex­pe­ri­ence to make it more ef­fi­cient, more plea­sur­able, and eas­ier, we are fully be­hind. Any­thing in tech­nol­ogy that in­ter­rupts the emo­tional con­nec­tion be­tween the guest and the ser­vant, we are against.

Let's il­lus­trate that. Some peo­ple say, "When I get to the ho­tel, hu­man in­ter­ac­tion is not im­por­tant to me, so I don't care if there's a kiosk to check me in like there is at the air­port." While oth­ers say, "When I get off a 10-hour flight, I want some­one to ask me, ‘How are you? Do you need any­thing?’”

Over the next five to 10 years, should the re­cep­tion ex­pe­ri­ence be au­to­mated? Maybe it's a com­bi­na­tion of both to pro­vide choice to the guest.

A per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion may be wel­come when you're weary or you're in a new place for the first time and you're un­sure about cer­tain things. On­line check-in or a kiosk may be pre­ferred be­cause it’s your de­sired method of check­ing in or you are al­ready fa­mil­iar with the ho­tel.

If you want to check-out and give some com­ments to the ho­tel or get a hard copy of the bill, you have that choice. If you want to check-out on the TV in your room be­cause it's eas­ier and it's all elec­tronic, that’s fine too.

That's elec­tive tech­nol­ogy and we like elec­tive tech­nol­ogy.

Other as­pects of tech­nol­ogy are wide rang­ing. We are thrilled about voice prompt tech­nol­ogy be­cause in the next five to 10 years it will be com­mon for a guest to walk into the room and say, “I pre­fer to speak in Ger­man,” and have the sys­tem switch lan­guages.

You could say, “I'm hot. I'm cold. Turn on the TV. Turn on CNN, play French mu­sic or play west­ern movies on the TV” — all voice ac­ti­vated in your choice of lan­guage. This is ex­cel­lent.

There are also types of tech­nol­ogy that make the guest ex­pe­ri­ence lo­gis­ti­cally eas­ier. For in­stance, now you can em­bed some­thing that is the size of a sesame seed on a table­cloth or on a nap­kin and you could put that on a room ser­vice ta­ble or tray. When guests fin­ish with their meal and don't want to call some­one to come up and dis­turb them, they can put the tray or the ta­ble out in the hall­way, trig­ger­ing a prompt in Room Ser­vice telling them it’s time to pick up the ta­ble.

In the en­vi­ron­men­tal age of wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, en­ergy con­trol, heat­ing, and ven­ti­la­tion, new tech­nolo­gies such as mo­tion de­tec­tion or open-and-close, make prop­er­ties much more ef­fi­cient. Th­ese are all great things.

What you don't want is the sit­u­a­tion where you have a prob­lem, call down to the front desk and can't get any­body to an­swer. You want to pull your hair out be­cause you’re so frus­trated. This hap­pens, it hap­pened to me, and it in­ter­rupts the guest ex­pe­ri­ence.

Look at PressReader, look how lib­er­at­ing and how smart PressReader is, be­cause now you can have any in­for­ma­tion you want and you're not step­ping over pub­li­ca­tions that are lit­ter­ing the hall­ways and look­ing ter­ri­ble.

If you want to read a news­pa­per, a mag­a­zine or a blog, you have it all right there. It has be­come lib­er­at­ing where al­most ev­ery­body, when asked what news­pa­per they would like to have, says, "No thanks, I can read it on PressReader." It's com­mon sense now.

With tech­nol­ogy, any­thing that makes the guest ex­pe­ri­ence eas­ier and more en­joy­able, we are all for, pas­sion­ately. Any­thing that in­ter­rupts hu­man con­nec­tiv­ity when the guest wants that hu­man con­nec­tiv­ity, we frown upon.

I like what you said about giv­ing peo­ple choice. But it doesn't have to be just the choice of con­tent; it should also be the choice of medium.

I'll tell you, be­fore I met you as a team, my friends and I were big ad­vo­cates of PressReader. We thought it was the next step for­ward be­cause it gave you so much choice in medium and in con­tent.

That also doesn't mean that print needs to com­pletely be elim­i­nated from ho­tels. There are guests that pre­fer that one-on-one con­nec­tion with a printed prod­uct, so that is about pro­vid­ing that choice as well.

We call that ab­stract­ing. In other words, when you have the base prod­uct in the ho­tel like PressReader, if you find that 42% of your guests want [the print ver­sion of] The New York Times, then don't elim­i­nate The New York Times — just don't buy a 100% of it if only 42% want it. The same is true for mag­a­zines in the room.

With the lib­er­a­tion of hav­ing the base prod­uct like PressReader, which sat­is­fies a big part of the need, you can ab­stract the elec­tive part to fur­ther en­hance the guest ex­pe­ri­ence. But you don't have to carry the ex­tra costs of ship­ping for all the pub­li­ca­tions in a medium you don't need. That's true of a lot of things in a room.

Is the trend to­wards adopt­ing dig­i­tal pub­li­ca­tions in ho­tels ac­cel­er­at­ing?

Oh, rapidly. As a mat­ter of fact, I think the tra­di­tional way of pro­vid­ing news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines in five years will be 1% of what it is right now. It won't even be 10% of what it is right now. It's not grow­ing rapidly, it's grow­ing su­per­rapidly.

There's very, very strong ev­i­dence for it be­cause of the ef­fi­ciency of elec­tronic medi­ums, the color qual­ity of th­ese smart de­vices, the abil­ity to range through dif­fer­ent medi­ums, and dif­fer­ent gen­res. A lot of peo­ple will now jump from print to dig­i­tal mag­a­zines, to video, and to pod­cast­ing.

As a mat­ter of fact, there are a lot of guests now, more than you would imag­ine, who do that. In the year 2000, prob­a­bly 99% of guests turned their tele­vi­sion on dur­ing some point of their stay. I bet that num­ber is well be­low 90% now. And by the time we get to 2025, I bet 25% of guests will never turn their TV on at any time dur­ing their guest stay.

Al­most ev­ery in­dus­try in the world is be­ing dis­rupted by 3rd party in­ter­me­di­aries: main­stream me­dia has Face­book and Google, mu­sic has Spo­tify and Ap­ple, video has Net­flix, and ho­tels have OTAs and al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion providers such as Airbnb. Can ho­tels cap­i­tal­ize on this dis­rup­tion, and if so, how?

What hap­pened with the dis­rup­tors of the tra­di­tional dis­tri­bu­tion of mu­sic and film is that the dis­rup­tors ac­tu­ally did it bet­ter than the in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized way.

What hap­pened was that the record com­pa­nies got fat and slow, so when the dis­rup­tors came in, they came up with a bet­ter pro­gram, a bet­ter model and peo­ple took to it. They ac­tu­ally served the com­mu­nity bet­ter in terms of how one down­loaded mu­sic for the en­joy­ment of lis­ten­ing to mu­sic.

The dis­rup­tors in tele­vi­sion ac­tu­ally did a bet­ter job than the broad­cast­ers be­cause they be­haved like mo­nop­o­lies. They be­haved like com­modi­ties in­stead of ser­vice ve­hi­cles. The same was true with film when stu­dios got fat and old be­cause they be­lieved, like mu­sic, TV, and film, that they were un­touch­able. This ren­dered them vul­ner­a­ble to new medi­ums — medi­ums brought in by very smart peo­ple.

Well, you would think that the same thing would ap­ply to one of the largest in­dus­tries in the world, which is tourism, but it didn't hap­pen that way. What hap­pened was that the dis­rup­tors (OTAs) built very, very large busi­nesses in one of the largest in­dus­tries in the world be­cause they made it easy to book a trans­ac­tion. Very lit­tle of that mar­ket­place is qual­i­ta­tive.

98-99% of the peo­ple who of­ten fly first class are not book­ing flights through an air­line travel site. They want the per­sonal touch and in­ter­ac­tion be­cause their lives are more com­plex. They’ll use the concierge avail­able through an Amer­i­can Ex­press Black card, a plat­inum card, a club.

But more peo­ple who fly busi­ness class are now book­ing tick­ets on­line.

Where the dis­rup­tors got it wrong was on the ho­tel side. They made a gi­gan­tic mis­take be­cause they put a nar­ra­tive out into the global mar­ket­place with­out ver­i­fy­ing the qual­ity lev­els. They left the ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the qual­ity level up to the guests to find out by them­selves.

Peo­ple to­day will use TripAd­vi­sor to do ba­sic re­search, but the rea­son why TripAd­vi­sor is not do­ing well as an OTA is be­cause no one trusts them. In the case of Price­line, Ex­pe­dia, and Ho­, peo­ple don't feel vul­ner­a­ble on a one- or two-star trans­ac­tion, even on a three be­cause their ex­po­sure's not great. But no­body's book­ing them for four- or five-star be­cause it's too ex­pen­sive and they don't trust them. So when they say this is five-star, six-star, seven-star, or eight-star, what's the cri­te­ria for giv­ing that rat­ing to a prop­erty? When the guest got there, it didn't turn out to be that way.

I wish it wasn't so, but one of the rea­sons why Forbes Travel Guide, in the course of five years,

has been able to go from a hand­ful of coun­tries to a hun­dred coun­tries, and has be­come the most trusted name glob­ally, is be­cause ev­ery­body be­lieves that we've been there, we've ver­i­fied it, our stan­dards are tough, the sys­tem has in­tegrity, you can't game it, and you can't buy it.

The one mis­take the travel in­dus­try made is that the dis­rup­tors never put into their for­mula what the mu­sic peo­ple, the TV peo­ple, and the film peo­ple did. They didn't put the qual­ity el­e­ment in, and that's where they're go­ing to get burned go­ing for­ward.

You're ab­so­lutely right and that's some­thing that we're see­ing even with Airbnb now. They're in­vest­ing in hu­man ver­i­fi­ca­tion of about 2,000 prop­er­ties, but I can’t imag­ine how they can scale that to bring qual­ity stan­dards into the plat­form as a whole.

See, now there's an­other dis­tinct point. If you make a mis­take down­load­ing mu­sic or you make a mis­take down­load­ing TV or even film pro­gram­ming, how big is the mis­take?

You make a mis­take book­ing a trip with your fam­ily, not only is the mis­take po­ten­tially su­per ex­pen­sive fi­nan­cially, what's the cost of the mis­take in terms of time and emo­tional dis­com­fort? Gi­gan­tic, and that's hap­pen­ing with great reg­u­lar­ity.

What is the value of an OTA to a ho­tel then?

There are only two val­ues. Its value to the con­sumer is trans­ac­tional and con­ve­nient.

The value to the ho­tel is the tem­po­rary in­crease in mar­ket share. But what all the ho­tels are now real­iz­ing is that if they in­crease mar­ket share by bring­ing in the wrong guest, it's more of a prob­lem than a ben­e­fit.

Be­cause the in­dus­try has grown so fast, it has adopted a mar­ket-share phi­los­o­phy in­stead of an av­er­age-rate phi­los­o­phy. If one looks at lux­ury, from 1950 to the mil­len­nium, the en­tire in­dus­try was driven qual­i­ta­tively by the right guests who sup­ported the rates of the ho­tel.

Post-mil­len­nium, the en­tire in­dus­try shifted to an oc­cu­pancy strat­egy, which made ho­tels do deals with the OTAs — deals which many of them now are re­gret­ting.

Very in­ter­est­ing. It re­minds me of the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try that got into bed very quickly with the face­books and googles of the world and is now very much re­gret­ting that.

The dis­cov­er­abil­ity el­e­ment of smaller prop­er­ties is cer­tainly some­thing that can­not be dis­puted as a value in work­ing with OTAs, but there’s a very big piece miss­ing there and that’s the abil­ity to sub­se­quently en­gage with that guest. How do ho­tels es­tab­lish that per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with a guest who has booked their stay with a prop­erty through an OTA?

All ho­tel com­pa­nies, in­de­pen­dent and cor­po­rate, are be­ing forced to go back to what the OTAs told them was go­ing to be too ex­pen­sive — di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pre­and post-di­rect con­tact with the guest. Peo­ple said, “We'll take the cheaper al­ter­na­tive and trust you.” Now ev­ery­one has re­al­ized, that may have been a gen­er­a­tionally-de­fined mis­take.

So now the ho­tels are go­ing back to a much deeper, pre-com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the guest, which is new be­cause they very rarely had any pre­com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Prior to ar­rival, and then post­de­par­ture they now say, “Was every­thing up to your ex­pec­ta­tion? What would you like the next time you come back? We were re­ally thrilled that you were here. We haven't seen you in a year. We have th­ese of­fer­ings...”

The pen­du­lum has now swung the other way and, by and large, the en­tire global lux­ury com­mu­nity is not only go­ing back to the model of dur­ing- and post-com­mu­ni­ca­tion, it has now em­barked on a very ag­gres­sive, pre-ar­rival com­mu­ni­ca­tion to set the tone of what you want in­di­vid­u­al­ized to en­hance your ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­cause if you get the guest off on the right foot, there is a much greater chance their en­tire stay will be more sat­is­fac­tory than not.

Has that forced the OTAs to pro­vide th­ese de­tails of peo­ple who are book­ing?

No. No. No! They refuse to be­cause now they're act­ing like com­modi­ties. As a re­sult it's set off a gi­gan­tic Trans­former-like war be­tween the OTAs and the ma­jor brands.

What you're go­ing to see is that as the megabrands con­tinue to buy sub-brands — like what Mar­riott/Star­wood has done, what Ac­cor is do­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally now, what In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal is do­ing, what Hil­ton is do­ing, Dis­ney, and Hy­att — those mega-brands now are go­ing to form new strate­gies and they're go­ing to go di­rectly head-to-head and cut, or se­verely limit, the al­lot­ments to the OTAs.

There's a big war brew­ing. It's al­ready started, but it will play out over the next few years and it's go­ing to be the first lodg­ing world war. It’s go­ing to be lux­ury lodg­ing ver­sus the OTAs.

Go­ing back to the change in con­sumer be­hav­ior… The younger gen­er­a­tions have grown up in a very dif­fer­ent world with­out brick and mor­tar travel agen­cies. How do you see ho­tels adapt­ing to their needs, given their very dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions.

I would sug­gest to you that it's no dif­fer­ent than other gen­er­a­tional ad­just­ments. When the jet ar­rived in the 1960s and dereg­u­la­tion of the air­line in­dus­try came in the 1970s, they com­pletely al­tered travel pat­terns. You had for­eign guests that you never had be­fore.

What hap­pened when all the Chi­nese showed up, when all the Ja­panese showed up? What did you do when you didn't know their [cul­tural] cus­toms? It took time for the in­dus­try to adapt to that.

The mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion is eas­ier and I'll tell you why.

They have a much higher dis­pos­able in­come than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of their age. They have a much higher in­her­ent knowl­edge of their age and a much greater global so­phis­ti­ca­tion than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

So they're more so­phis­ti­cated, they're more knowl­edge­able, and they have more re­sources. What they don't like be­ing told is how to do things be­cause they're not trapped in the self-es­teem gen­er­a­tion of their grand­par­ents and par­ents. They're the first gen­er­a­tion of the self-ac­tu­al­iza­tion that says, “It's not im­por­tant for me to show you what I earned. I don't have to im­press you with my jewelry and my car and my houses like my grand­par­ents and par­ents did. That's self-es­teem. It's im­por­tant how peo­ple see me. It's im­por­tant how I see my­self and that will de­fine how you see me on In­sta­gram and dif­fer­ent so­cial me­dia that are shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, not nec­es­sar­ily ma­te­rial goods.”

So the touch­points are less with mil­len­ni­als than with their par­ents and grand­par­ents who want a lot of in­ter­ac­tion be­cause they like the feel­ing of be­ing served where they couldn't be served be­fore.

The kids now, or the younger ones are more so­phis­ti­cated, they're say­ing, "It's not that I don't like be­ing served, but I will tell you, or I will show you, or I will be­have in a way that in­di­cates I want to be served; and when I don't want you, give me my space."

In other words, circa 1980-1990, when Mr. Jones was told by the ho­tel that they were giv­ing him a but­ler, he would re­spond this way, "I bought a suite at the St. Regis and now I have a but­ler. Wow, that's cool. My wife loves the fact that they’ll un­pack for her and pack

for her be­cause that's an amenity and a ser­vice that my par­ents could never af­ford and we could never af­ford. Wow, hav­ing a but­ler makes me feel good about my­self.”

Now, the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion says, "Hey, that's cool. I like hav­ing a but­ler, but I don't want them hov­er­ing over me. I know where they are when I want them."

Mil­len­ni­als are mis­rep­re­sented by those who say they're twitchy or that be­cause of tech­nol­ogy they're non-com­mu­ni­ca­tors and don’t like hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. That’s ac­tu­ally not true.

What is true is that they like less in­ter­ac­tion, which means as a ho­tel, in­stead of hav­ing one in 20 chances to please them, you may only have one in 10 chances to please them. You've got to be able to read them in terms of their sonar that in­di­cates, “I'm ready to be served. Or not.”

It's go­ing to take the lux­ury global com­mu­nity two to three years to catch up with the mores and norms of that gen­er­a­tion, but we're learn­ing it very quickly. They're go­ing to be the eas­i­est gen­er­a­tion to take care of as com­pared to the three or four gen­er­a­tions that pre­ceded them.

That's very in­ter­est­ing. On a more per­sonal note, what in­spires you?

Two things. On a deeply per­sonal level, what in­spires me are acts of kind­ness, cour­tesy and gra­cious­ness — when peo­ple are un­forced and thought­ful be­cause that's the hu­man­ity that con­nects us. It’s who I am; it’s in my DNA.

The other thing that's highly in­spir­ing is that we may not like the same things, we may not share the same ide­ol­ogy, but like Sting said, we share the same bi­ol­ogy.

One thing you know, Niko­lay, is that the more you travel and the more you in­ter­act, the more hum­ble you be­come. You’re hum­bled be­cause you re­al­ize how small you are in the big pic­ture of things, how unique cul­tures are all over the world, and how their cul­ture is ex­pressed in dance, mu­sic, and cui­sine.

That's why los­ing my pal, Tony Bour­dain, was very painful be­cause he brought a dif­fer­ent type of sig­na­ture to travel and made it more ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple.

Ev­ery­body's glob­ally tied in now and that to me is very, very in­spir­ing. And I love the fact that there's no in­dus­try that joins hu­man­ity and con­nects the dots of the touch­points of hu­man­ity more than inn keep­ing and tourism. Cer­tainly, we've done a lot bet­ter of a job than the air­line in­dus­try, which has now be­come a com­mod­ity where it's just like mov­ing cat­tle.

When you travel, what are the things that you miss the most when you're away from home and how do you sat­isfy those things that are miss­ing?

You miss the peo­ple you love. Pe­riod. You miss the peo­ple you love and you miss the con­ve­niences of your idio­syn­cra­sies that are pro­gramed for you, which are gen­er­ally around your work and your com­mu­nity — things that are fa­mil­iar, things that are par­tic­u­lar to you be­cause you built your life around them.

If you're a cy­clist or a book worm, if you draw or are a car­toon­ist, your house usu­ally is set up around th­ese hob­bies or habits. When you get de­tached from them, you miss them, but a lot of times what you get on the other side is en­larg­ing be­cause you will al­ways pick up some­thing of en­light­en­ment or some­thing that was not an­tic­i­pated.

The one thing that's un­be­liev­able is when you see the kind­ness and gra­cious­ness of ev­ery cul­ture de­spite lan­guage, the­ol­ogy, gen­der, or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. When you see peo­ple who re­ally care and pro­vide a sense of wel­come, that's a beau­ti­ful thing.

So, what keeps you awake at night th­ese days?

I think there are two things. One is ter­ror­ism and the fact that there are a lot of things that are be­yond the con­trol of us in the tourism com­mu­nity; no place is ex­empt. That causes a

cau­tion and de­lib­er­a­tion of peo­ple trav­el­ing and in­ter­act­ing, so that keeps me up.

The other thing that keeps me up is the nor­mal­iza­tion of things that are self­ish or that in­ter­fere with things that join us to­gether. I would rather have mag­nets that draw peo­ple to­gether than the op­po­site ends of the mag­nets that re­pel.

So, what keeps me up at night is not just our in­dus­try and ter­ror­ism, but also any­one who de­ceives, or lies, or is un­gra­cious or un­help­ful, or doesn't keep a prom­ise. That's what keeps me up at night.

Thanks so much Jerry. Do you have any clos­ing ad­vice for our ho­tel part­ners?

I think the clos­ing ad­vice is that the big­gest com­po­nent in travel in the next five to 10 years is go­ing to be that peo­ple are go­ing to go. You're not go­ing to put that ge­nie back in the bot­tle. Peo­ple are go­ing to ex­plore, be­cause it’s about the lux­ury of time and ex­pe­ri­ences, not the ex­pec­ta­tion of ac­cu­mu­lat­ing ma­te­rial things.

But “if you build it, they will come” no longer suf­fices be­cause it doesn't tie into hu­man con­nec­tiv­ity. Those who build uniquely will have a slight ad­van­tage. Those who pro­gram will have a slight ad­van­tage — how you en­gage your guests, what restau­rants you have, and what entertainment you of­fer.

But those who serve and pro­vide gra­cious­ness and hu­man con­nec­tiv­ity, they will have a huge ad­van­tage on emo­tional con­nec­tiv­ity and loy­alty. That's the Holy Grail.

Jerry, thank you so much for shar­ing your in­sights into the ho­tel in­dus­try and of your­self. I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate how you, as CEO of Forbes Travel Guide, are driv­ing the in­dus­try to­wards mak­ing the world a bet­ter place, help­ing to con­nect peo­ple, and al­low­ing us to con­tinue to en­joy life through un­forced acts of kind­ness and un­ex­pected cour­te­sies that we ex­pe­ri­ence along the way.

Well, I thank you, too, be­cause you've been trail­blaz­ers, all of you. You're an ex­cep­tional group of peo­ple. We fit into each other with our com­mon­al­ity of point of view. We're both sur­rounded by a lot of great peo­ple and you have our re­spect and our ad­mi­ra­tion as an or­ga­ni­za­tion; it's our plea­sure.

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