Attended by the hospitality industry’s most senior leaders and leading organizations, IHIF events provide the ideal backdrop to learn about critical investment trends in every region of the world, including Germany, Russia, Turkey, Asia, Brazil and North America. Sharing his professional insights this month is the affable Peter Strebel, SVP of operations, Omni Hotels & Resorts, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. In addition to developing brand standards, Strebel provides operational counsel and support to prominent properties including the Omni Dallas Hotel, Omni Hotel at CNN Center and Omni Nashville Hotel, all connected to large-scale convention centers.
HM: What regions are you excited about in terms of hotel development moving forward?
Strebel: While we have hotels in Canada and Mexico, Omni has a mostly North American base. I am especially excited about a new-build, mixed-use development in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Omni Hotels & Resorts has an agreement with Louisville Metro Government to develop the Omni Louisville Hotel, a 600-room convention center hotel that will be the first four-diamond luxury hotel in the area. It will include 200 luxury apartments constructed by The Cordish Companies, upscale grocery and retail space for other shops, 70,000 square feet of meeting space, spa, fitness center, restaurants and rooftop pool. The structure will be certified LEED Silver. It’s one of the largest projects under construction in the region and will be a catalyst for the continued revitalization of downtown Louisville. It will join Omni’s Convention Collection of properties in Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Worth, Providence, Rhode Island and Washington.
HM: What travel industry trends are having a big impact on hotel operations these days?
Strebel: We are studying the emergence of the millennial generation. They are really starting to travel and have distinct tastes and needs. We think they will dominate the travel segment in the next 10-15 years, and we want to have a better understanding of what excites them. Another trend is authenticity. People want authentic experiences: real local flavor and local color. At Omni, no two hotels are alike. Our hotels’ design, décor, food-and-beverage services and amenities are reflective of the cities they inhabit. There are also huge culinary trends affecting F&B operations. Menus offer healthy and organic options and more options for dietary preferences, including gluten-free selections and detoxifying juice. Speaking of menus, the Omni Chicago Hotel offers a digital in-room dining menu, which includes pictures and descriptions of each meal. Service will continue to evolve to support changing consumer needs.
HM: If you could have any job at any Omni property, what would it be?
Strebel: I really love being a general manager. You get to lead a group of hospitality professionals with the sole focus of creating memorable experiences for your guests.
HM: If you could offer hoteliers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Strebel: A piece of advice I often give Omni GMs is to observe and really spend time focusing on the customer, because their needs change. It’s a back-to-basics approach, but in light of our fast-paced, tech-driven society, it’s important to slow down and observe what’s really happening in your hotels. I also say you have to work hard. It’s not an easy career, but it’s very rewarding.
HM: What’s your advice for students considering the hospitality industry?
Strebel: We’re really here to entertain people. If you find that you enjoy hosting and entertaining people in your own home, you’ll be a natural fit for the industry because that’s what we do in this business: warmly welcome people into our home. But you have to love what you do to be successful in it.
HM: What makes an industry event good?
Strebel: Having a unique experience. Most people today have a been-there, done-that attitude, so it’s important to offer new experiences, whether they are cultural or culinary. The Omni Nashville Hotel, for example, was created specifically to be an authentic expression of the city’s vibrant music culture. At a recent meeting, the hotel brought in country music songwriters to speak to the group, tell them where the inspiration for the songs came from, and perform for them. It was a one-of-a-kind experience that really brought in the local color of the city.