In the middle of chaos, it’s difficult to take a step back and evaluate the present situation. Taking a moment to reflect on the past and predict the future can be just as tricky.
With a history of opening and managing luxury hotels, Jeff David is no stranger to the travel and hospitality industries. In fact, Jeff is known for his leadership and innovation for startups in the service industry. His work running Jeff David Hospitality and The Fitler Club during this pandemic has only made it that much more important that he reflect on his past experiences, examine what’s happening right now, and develop a forward-thinking perspective.
We sat down (virtually) with Jeff to pick his brain on what he’s seen, is seeing, and expects to unfold within the travel and hospitality space.
Whether you’re a traveler, hospitality manager, travel supplier, or entrepreneur, there’s something valuable for everyone to takeaway from Jeff.
Reflecting on the Past: A Little Background on Jeff
With a career spanning over 25 years, Jeff is a leader in the hospitality industry and is known for opening luxury properties. He’s been credited with opening $1.7 billion dollars’ worth of high-profile luxury assets in Aspen, Anguilla, Times Square, Nantucket, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. In founding Jeff David Hospitality in 2018, he scaled his experience into other facets of the service industry, with partners and clients in a variety of sectors.
From the beginning of his career, he had to adapt to external forces beyond his control. From the Northridge quake to devastating hurricanes that ravaged resorts, he quickly gained muscle memory that has helped him and his properties bounce back from disaster.
Whether it was around stabilizing a hotel to protect its value or buying debt, Jeff has gone through a lot of transitions. He’s managed ownership transitions, pauses on top line, and concerns for staff welfare. And yet, there are always out-of-the-box solutions that can help get things back on track.
The net result of his experiences has highlighted that the hospitality industry is resilient. Of course, it’s how fast it can be resilient is often where the challenges lie. Something as acute as a hurricane, you just rebuild a hotel and re-open. However, something as devastating as a recession is a longer climb.
Ultimately, Jeff views travel as a necessity, and he believes we will find creative ways to tackle today’s challenges.
Analyzing the Present: The Current State of Travel and Hospitality
It may be a buzzword, but pivoting is what many companies, including Jeff’s, are doing right now. When having to adapt and re-imagine your business, it’s helpful to connect with industry colleagues because, in the long run, everyone needs to put up a united front to protect their industry from collapse.
When it comes to seeking consumer confidence, it often ends up that everyone is following the leader of best practices. However, it’s important to recognize that you’ll do more long-term damage if everyone decides to have a fire sale and offer deep discounts. You can never recover when you don’t protect your rate integrity. In the end, a big factor in long-term success is how fast you can establish a new normal during crisis times.
In the hospitality industry, there are leading experts, like STR and HVS, that can offer insight into the revenue side and rate occupancy all the way to the hotel valuation. Given their credibility, it’s worth paying attention to when they’re preliminarily saying that it will take 2–4 years for revenue to rebound. Since this pandemic is an unprecedented event, there are a lot of crystal ball predictions, and hopefully that 4-year view will shorten and get closer to that 2-year mark. Similar to how Upside’s CEO Scott Case has said we’ll all have to embrace 18 months of suck, Jeff also recognizes that there’s at least 18 months of suck ahead of us.
Yes, it’s important to take note of what other industry experts are saying. Read their whitepapers, listen to their webinars, and call them up for a friendly chat. We’re all in this together and the biggest common denominator is this uncertainty.
Without patterns or an algorithm to offer clear direction, Jeff focuses his leadership style on proactivity rather than commiseration. He knows he could sit and be in an echo chamber of how terrifying things are, but he’s made the choice to do something about it. That’s why he’s getting creative. For example, one way to get creative is to promote no-risk offers for booking now for an event anytime this year and there will be forgiveness and leniency on deposits and commitment—all in the name of stimulating activity and regaining consumer confidence.
Looking to the Future: The Rebound of Travel
The comeback of travel is going to be interesting. It wasn’t helpful that Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway sold off a lot of airline stock. It was a move that did not help consumer confidence. Of course, with crisis comes other innovations. For example, private aviation might gain more traction within the contactless environment. In the same way, contactless technology that emerges will definitely be well positioned for success.
As technology in the contactless space continues to grow, there will be new opportunities to better support road warriors as they hit the road again. Where contactless offers great efficiency in being able to bypass the front desk, Jeff also realizes it’s counterintuitive to a hospitality person who understands the importance of wearing masks but dislikes that people can’t see a friendly smile greeting you.
While it’s impossible to know what the future will hold, Jeff’s optimism says we as humans are a lot more resilient. He believes that we find silver linings in everything, and it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. As a road warrior himself, Jeff feels for the airline and hotel industries, and yet he knows that the human race is resilient. Our resiliency is one big silver lining and why he’s so optimistic that people’s longing for normalcy will speed the recovery of a safer and evolved travel experience in the future.
His message for other leaders out there is to remain calm, but transparent.
We will overcome this and come out stronger on the other side.