5 questions for Dart Interests Florida's Stewart Brown

The Hotec North America conference will be held June 27-30 at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa in Aventura, Fla. Photo credit: Questex Hospitality (people sitting at tables)

Ahead of the upcoming Hotec North America conference, sponsored by Questex Hospitality (parent company of Hotel Management) and scheduled for June 27-30 at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa in Aventura, Fla., several industry insiders will be sharing their insights on how the hotel sector is adjusting to new normals. 

Stewart Brown, SVP of operations at investment and development firm Dart Interests Florida, talked about new ways the company has adapted to the COVID-19 crisis, from growing segments to new technology.

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How has your segment of the industry changed over the past year?

The vacation rental industry weathered the COVID pandemic better than much of the lodging industry. This was a result of people looking for remote work-from-“home” locations and seeking out safe, drive-to vacation destinations that still allowed them to spread out with their family and stay semi-isolated.

Of the strategies you developed last year to adjust to the crisis brought on by COVID-19, which ones were the most successful?

Even before COVID, one of the core objectives we’ve been working on at our recently announced Evermore Orlando Resort has been to combine hotel-quality amenities, safety, cleanliness and service within a full-scale resort of centrally owned and operated vacation homes. The pandemic has reinforced the white space for this type of product and has helped our development and operations teams refine the specific benefits consumers are looking for in this new type of asset class.

What are some new trends in the industry that you think will have staying power in 2021?

Although hospitality by nature will always remain a high-touch service (particularly in the upper-upscale and luxury spaces), the rise of contactless payments, QR menus, automated check-in, mobile keys and other transactions via digital will continue. Mobile ordering is one area that has lagged for the hotel industry in general, but with the rise of delivery apps the need for this service has pushed it to the forefront and made it more of an expected amenity.

What are some ways technology has been helping you through this crisis?

Communication with guests and employees was the most the critical item. Additionally, real-time forecasting fed by various data sources is more critical than ever. As we react to large swings in business levels it is imperative to analyze this data to react appropriately in this dynamic market. 

What is the most valuable thing you learned in 2020 and how will you apply it to your business moving forward?

Our industry is resilient, and we believe that people are never going to lose the desire to travel. Even in the midst of a pandemic the searches for travel destinations surged as we all reached out to our favorite travel companion to daydream about our next trip together. We have such gratitude towards those front-line employees that helped to keep our operations going, and our staff and guests safe, during the pandemic and every day moving forward.

Applications are still open for buyers and suppliers.

Stay tuned for more insights from industry leaders ahead of Hotec North America.