What Is The Future Of Travel? Watch Three Top Hotel CEOs Discuss What’s Next For The Tourism Industry

The travel industry accounts for ten of the global economy, but for the past many months, tourists have been afraid to travel. As countries and states open up, summer hits, and people that have been quarantined for months are itching to get out, travel seems to be more necessary than ever before. But what will that look like? What is the future of travel? Today, we’re going to try to find out. Haute Living was joined by three of the top hotel CEOs in the industry—Arash Azarbarzin of SH Hotels & Resorts, Dillip Rajakarier of Minor Hotels and Bille Walshe of Viceroy Hotel Group—to discuss what, exactly, the future of travel looks like. Check out the key quotes from each hotelier and watch the full chat below!


Arash AzarbarzinPhoto Credit: SH Hotels & Resorts

Arash Azarbarzin is the President & CEO of SH Hotels & Resorts. Arash oversees all operations for 1 Hotels, a nature‐inspired luxury lifestyle brand; the five‐star luxury Baccarat Hotel brand; and Treehouse Hotels, which has its first location in London. He is a founding member of sbe Hotel Group, where he served as president for 12 years; he has also worked in leadership roles with brands like W Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis and Four Seasons.


“For me it is going to, it is not business as usual, this the new norm. [The luxury traveler wants] a certain level of service, a certain level of commitment from us that that we’re not going to cut from our services are going to use this opportunity to say, ‘Well, because of COVID-19, we can’t do this. We can’t do that.’ We’re not going to cut any corners. If anything, we’re going to offer services and add protocols to make the guests feel more comfortable. We do valet parking at our hotel in Miami.  I would say that 99 percent of folks want someone to park their car. And we do offer room service in Miami, but if you wish to have the room service and to-go containers and delivery, that’s up to you. We’re not deciding for the guests. We are requiring masks in public areas.”
“We think it’s very disruptive for guests to come into the hotel and get the temperature checks, individually or as a party of four…We did buy infrared cameras for every one of our hotels, which can [check] up to 100 people for a minute, and we know right away if somebody has a fever. And we have procedures on how to do that. Once we clean the room and have the room in perfect order and its inspected, we seal the room, so when the guest arrives, there’s a little ‘seal that’ sign. Just like when you open your bottle of water, you want to hear that click [which signifies] that you’re the first person who has broken that seal.”


Dillip Rajakarier Photo Credit: Minor Hotels

Dillip Rajakarier is Group CEO of Minor International and CEO of Minor Hotels, which owns and operates the upscale Anantara brand. He has been with the group since 2007, when he came on board as Chief Finance & Investment Officer before being promoted to COO in 2008. He became CEO in 2011, and this January, he was appointed Group CEO of Minor International, alongside his leadership role as CEO of Minor Hotels. Dillip has been instrumental in expanding the group’s hotel portfolio, including the acquisition of NH Hotel Group, the addition of Tivoli Hotels & Resorts as well as a portfolio of properties from Sun International in Africa, among others.


“People are scared people are not comfortable at the moment, and when you see the death rates in certain countries, it’s quite scary. I think it’s going to transform the the hotel and hospitality sector… Coming from Thailand and and being based here in Asia, the only thing I can say is that, you know, Asia, has gone through many pandemics. Starting from bird flu to swine flu to SARS, which was the big one and and also most recently Ebola as well, and we pretty much bounce back pretty quick. And I think yes, there is going to be some uncomfortable feeling in terms of travel and tourism, but I’m quite hopeful that once the borders open and once the planes start to fly. I think tourism will come back. I think the bigger question is travel bubbles and the quarantine requirements of certain countries.”  

“Within the Anantara brand, which is a super high-end luxury brand, we’ve got something called which is the ‘Stay with peace of mind,’ and that’s something we have been communicating quite strongly to all our guests. We’ve also partnered with some of the industry players like diversity Ecolab to get certification and and also the health and hygiene standards as well. We’ve also partnered with some of the local health regulators as well. We’re making sure that the WHO guidelines have been met. We’ve looked a electrostatic spray technology, we’ve looked at enhance hygiene measures using EPA- approved disinfectants, so at least when you check into your room, you don’t actually smell of disinfectants—you actually have a nice [scent like] vanilla or lemongrass.” 


Bill WalshePhoto Credit: Viceroy Hotel Group

Since taking the helm at Viceroy in 2012, Bill Walshe, the CEO of Viceroy Hotel Group, has added seven new properties including Chicago, Los Cabos, San Francisco and Washington D.C. and is preparing for the opening of new Viceroy branded hotels in Cartagena, Portugal, Panama and Serbia. Prior to Viceroy, he worked with several leading international luxury hospitality brands, including Dubai’s Jumeirah Group, Kempinski Hotels & Resorts and The Doyle Collection.


“What we do in hospitality is not rocket science. I think there’s a common bond about being hosts first and always at the end of the day, we get into hospitality Because we’re human beings who like to make other human beings happy. It’s that simple… What I’m seeing happening in the industry, which is inspiring me is that those of us that were fortunate enough to remain in employment, I’ve taken on an obligation to work harder to work faster to work smarter to work more efficiently, to create the circumstances that we control to allow us to react when there are circumstances that we do not control… It’s a privilege to be part of this industry, but it’s also an obligation to be part of this industry, and I think we need to recognize the potential long term impact of the destabilization of work and opportunity for people around the world, and the things we need to get back. We need to get open. We need to get busy. We need to employ people and we need to create hope in the lives of so many that are really quite desperate right now.”

“One of the things that we’re investing in very heavily right now is is voice activation across our businesses and pretty soon—in a matter of weeks—we will have rolled out voice activation and voice command capability in every hotel room across Viceroy. We’re working with Google Home and our guests will have an ability to speak commands as many of them do using Amazon devices or Google devices.” 
“We’re putting a program in place across all of our hotels, whereby if a guest wants to say thank you to one of those healthcare heroes that has helped us throughout this this pandemic, they can just by showing up and by checking in. Guests occupying a room will trigger the release of another room available at a 50 percent discount for a member frontline member of of the health care profession. This contribution says ‘I’m making the world a better place. I’m giving back. I’m saying thank you to these healthcare heroes without compromise. I’m doing it by doing what I would have done otherwise.’ So we’re not asking people to make a donation, we’re not putting a surcharge on this day. We’re just saying show up. Be yourself. Have fun, and by doing so, you’ll allow us—on your behalf—to give back. We’ve seen people connect with brands that have shown their humanity and their compassion throughout this pandemic. I think that one of the ways people will will feel better about themselves is also continuing this the sense of giving… We can therefore show our purpose and show our humanity as hoteliers.”