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What do you do and how did you get here?
I'm a Hotelier & Lifestyle Curator. I started out as a real estate developer and travel enthusiast. I founded Thompson Hotels in 2001 (along with my partners) and, after growing and selling that brand, am now launching Sixty Hotels as my next endeavor.
Was hospitality something you always wanted to do? What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always had a passion for travel and exploration. It seems almost mystical to me; it so deeply effects people’s lives on a very personal level. I started out from the business end: real estate, finance, law, and ultimately combined that background with my passions: art, architecture and design.
What's your greatest inspiration?
I take inspiration from small things, usually artistic in nature - a painting, a poem, a song lyric, a film. I try to anticipate which chord of human emotion that particular sensory experience strikes and how it can ultimately be translated into something visual and experiential.
What's your favorite hotel in the world and why?
The Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand because it is a combination of indigenous architecture, landscape and texture that gives you a sense of place. It also challenges you to find a sense of self that is often repressed in restrictive, urban environments and formulaic resorts.
What's the biggest change you've seen in the industry in the past 5 to 10 years?
The focus of big brands on trying to capture the spirit of independent lifestyle hotels, F&B concepts and design aesthetic en masse. It is simultaneously great and frightening for the industry in that it gives greater validation to what used to be a very small sector, but it also attempts to hijack the creative process, to make it part of corporate culture and institutionalize it.
Who are you currently admiring in the industry and why?
I always admire Ian Schrager. He is a provocateur; he is always pushing the industry further. He is reinventing himself yet again, never stagnant. Also Rocco Forte and Adrian Zecha are committed to their vision of luxury and how that plays out in Western Europe and Asia. They are consistent with what their brand identity is, regardless of trend.
Where will you be on your next day off?
If I ever have one, I will let you know. The body gets a day off, but the mind doesn't.
What's the next big idea? What are hotels missing?
The next big idea is to look back rather than looking forward. There is a sense of intimacy and individuality that is starting to leave the industry. I think we need to go back to being innkeepers to personalize the projects and create something that is truly experiential for the guest.
What will you be doing in a few years from now?
Most likely, I will be doing this or a derivative of this. I think there are opportunities in the luxury sector to translate the hotel experience into the home in a greater way through “branded living.” Additionally, I think the industry will start to focus more on Gen Y and more affordable brands, adapting food and beverage and design concepts that were previously reserved for the more up-market and luxury brands.
Career anecdote you'd like to share?
When we first opened Sixty Soho (formerly 60 Thompson) in 2001, our first event was for the launch of Another Magazine. It was a fantastic party with all of the people you would ever dream to have in your hotel, and the next day was 9/11. We had a house full of the most known and demanding people you could ever imagine (fashion directors, rock stars, super models). What amazed me was how everyone had such a sense of esprit de corps, in a time of crisis. It amplified the sense of responsibility and intimacy that you have for the guest. Sometimes an extreme crisis reminds us that this is a responsibility we always have and the bond we form whenever a guest checks in.