Clark Twiddy of Twiddy & Company On How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
11 min readDec 12, 2021


Know your guests and make sure you are rich, as an organization, in their feedback. If you listen, they will show you the way. Our best insights, in many cases, come from simple conversations with guests.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Clark Twiddy.

Clark is the President of Twiddy & Company, a hospitality and asset management firm along North Carolina’s Outer Banks celebrating almost 45 years in business. He is also fortunate to serve on the boards of private, public, non-profit, and government groups. A US Navy veteran, he is the proud father of two daughters and always picks the New York Giants to win the Super Bowl.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always believed in service to others as a noble calling and throughout my career have sought opportunities to do just that whether it was a for-profit role, a non-profit role, or through military service. As a firm, our profession is simply superb service to others and when done well it’s an absolutely wonderful place to be in terms of creating real meaning and value for not only our customers but our own staff as well. I am also fortunate that, as a family business, I am able to steward in some small ways the values of my parents.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

What a fun question…I think broadly my biggest single lesson learned over my career continues to be that a huge part of success remains in simply showing up. I have quite a few stories around good things coming from just being in the room with good people; if those good people are in turn willing to learn, good things will inevitably happen. For a specific story, I’ll share this — our single biggest client for many years was a truly remarkable (and rightfully famous) businessman who told me early in our relationship that the two most important words in our business model were simply listen and trust. He has since passed on, but his clarity around that thought and what I was able to learn from him have influenced me tremendously.

More generally, in our biggest business development pursuits I am convinced that listening to the little things really does make the biggest differences in the long-term. Several of our most valued clients today have come to us through our ability to listen to the seemingly little things in their lives and then reflect that in our thinking.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I had, particularly early in my career, an unfortunate tendency to simply talk too much. As we all know, when you’re in the sales business that’s a bad thing as truly great sales professionals are always great listeners first. When I’d start to ramble on, I’d just go all over the place and there are quite a few moments where I’d end up talking about anything other than the business at hand…in hindsight, that’s just funny to me because of the big gap between my intention and outcome (I also failed to understand at the time that if I was talking too much I most likely wasn’t, in fact, selling anything).

On a more personal note, I did once get so caught up in my smartphone that I arrived at the office for a big client meeting and just when I was getting out of the car heard my little girl say from the back seat “Dad, you forgot to drop me off at school.” So much for the big meeting…it wasn’t funny at the time, but the client graciously thought it was funny. What’s the old saying around prior preparation?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

All of my failures have been alone and all of my successes have been reflective of a team. Personally, I have been and continue to be blessed with remarkable people in my life from several different perspectives. Early in my career, I was able to learn from quite a few stellar military leaders — I continue to believe that in terms of leadership training the United States military is simply unsurpassed in providing real responsibility at a young age. More recently, I’ve been able to work alongside people who think very differently — but in many cases better — than I do and that’s been a great blessing as it’s helped me to grow as a thinker and problem-solver. Of course, I’m enormously grateful for the sacrifices my parents made along the way and am also keenly aware that I work, across the board, with a group of people who simply won’t let me fail. To them I am profoundly grateful.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

It’s certainly clear to say that the travel and hospitality business as a whole has never seen either the amount of change or the rate of change take place in such a relatively short period of time. I think broadly we’re seeing an intersection of technology and service that in most cases have to be virtually seamless to be competitive. To do that, there will have to be an enormous amount of strategic intentionality around the guest experience while also not, at the same time, losing our ability as a firm to relentlessly listen to our guests as people first and to maintain their trust through our actions.

In terms of specific innovations, we continue to focus on four main areas; 1) we’re committed to increasing our capacity to deliver a personal experience for our customers in a channel of their choosing, 2) we’re accelerating our ability to integrate lessons learned from the front-lines of our customer experience, 3) we’re digitally innovating as rapidly as possible by deploying what we think is the right mix of machine-aided transactions and at the same time smart digital systems that warehouse data and customer engagements in the smartest possible way, and 4) we’re also focusing on linking our strategic business thinking to our people thinking on a daily basis — while we won’t thrive without great technology, this was and will always be a people business first.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

I think about our business, at the highest level, as a vision built around the interactions between markets, margins, and differentiation. If we make the right resource allocations around those three areas, we’ll be in a position to create value for others competitively. In terms of a pain point, I think we continue to try and enhance the customer experience by being able to provide the right kind of service to them at the time and channel they choose — that could be more professionals to answer the phone, for example, or more chatbots to answer simple questions. It could be better and more integrated data warehousing, for another example, or it could be even more time simply spent alongside our customers. Regardless, we’re hoping that the right combination of all of these types of innovations positions our firm, based on the above markets, margins, and differentiation balance, to create superior customer experiences across and above market cycles.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

I believe we may yet be underestimating the scale of the profound changes the industry is experiencing as a result of the pandemic. First and foremost, I think the priority for lodging providers is to build and maintain trust as a safe place to visit. To do that, we’ll need to be consistently transparent — uncomfortably so — with our customers in terms of the motives and impact around what we do. Concurrently, despite the temptations to make everything digital there will also be no replacement for a personal touch and the knowledge, skills, and discipline around how to build a personal experience at scale is the stuff of measurable competitive advantage.

Second, we’ll clearly need the right balance between technology — we might reframe that as ease to the consumer — and a personal engagement based on a personalized experience. The only way to do that is to know your customer both as people and as a market.

Lastly, I think the industry as a whole — and our firm as a specific example — is embracing agility (also known as intentional speed) at a pace we would have barely conceived of only a few short years ago. The ability to move quickly, based on subtle customer signals, is an imperative to create value for others in an age of remarkable uncertainty. I think, clearly, we’ve entered a time in the industry where no longer do the big eat the small; rather, I think the fast now eat the slow in the competitive market.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

At a basic level, to me the supreme travel experience right now is simply two things — it’s 1) intentional in that every aspect of the experience is designed around a specific outcome and impact and 2) it’s based upon a level of personal connection at the destination — there is, in other words, no equal for the focus of compassionate professionals in delivering an experience. That’s it — I think those two things combined are the equivalent of true luxury.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

We have indeed. We work hard to understand our customers; beyond that, we work hard to think not only about them but like them in the way we share an experience built upon what we think is most valuable to them within their chosen time frames. For instance, we know right now our customers need as many opportunities as possible to de-stress and engage with family in this wonderful natural environment. The more we’re able to focus on experiences like that, the more we’re helping families connect. The more we do that, the more financially sustainable our firm becomes as we maintain trust in that consistency.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

I love this question and, as a side note, think it’s important that this kind of thing gets out to the very front-lines of every hospitality organization. If the maintenance team and front counter team knows what brings people back, you’ve got a great and enduring business.

  1. Know your guests and make sure you are rich, as an organization, in their feedback. If you listen, they will show you the way. Our best insights, in many cases, come from simple conversations with guests.
  2. For communication, be responsive and consistent in the channel your guest prefers. To do otherwise is to place the ease of the business ahead of the ease of the customer and that’s the wrong relationship. As we’ve worked to deploy new digital technology, the human tendency to remain at a status quo in terms of communication should be a warning sign that we are not keeping up with our customers.
  3. Build trust within your market through consistency and transparency. In an age of uncertainty, trust is the single most important competitive advantage. For example, fast forward, in your organization, ten years into the future and I’m willing to bet there would be no finer compliment to your firm than to simply say that you’ve earned and maintained the trust and loyalty of your customers. It sounds easy, but it’s not simple to do — to illustrate that point, think about how rare that outcome actually is.
  4. You will not be successful because of technology but you will not thrive without it. Make sure your technology is people focused and creates real purchase-decision value for your customers. While it can be tempting to focus on digital engagement only, and automate people functions, I warn against that as customers are people first — to automate entirely a personal experience runs to a commoditized approach to our industry that, in effect, compresses markets, margins, and differentiation.
  5. Hire great people and be a great place for them to work. Again, just because something is simple does not mean it is easy. SAS founder Dr. JIm Goodnight has a great saying that I think defines a great workplace — ”If you treat people like they make a difference, they will.” That about sums it up.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We’ve been fortunate over the years to have been a good place for great people to work and in turn those great people have created great experiences for our customers consistently. If we’ve made the right decisions around markets, margins, and differentiation we’ll be able to translate profits to impact in the lives of those who made it all happen. For example, we’ve been able to enrich the lives of our customers and staff in many ways that don’t necessarily appear on a balance sheet and we’re proud of that — from health care partnerships to housing initiatives to educational institution alliances, we’ll continue to make sure that success is shared widely by not only people who contribute to the outcome but to those who are impacted by it. That’s just good business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Dear Mr. Bezos,

I would love to see Amazon get involved in the vacation business and have some ideas on how, by bringing great personal experiences to e-commerce, we can contribute to a more healthful and intentional society.

If that doesn’t work, I’d offer this —

Perhaps on a more local level, I think the best single movement we could start as a society today would be very simple — show up to vote, on a personal level, and be reasonable. Author Allen Guelzo points out that historically rage has been the poison of a democracy while reason is the great healer. Anything we can do to reduce the rage in our society and increase the reason enhances greatly the future of our children. To me, the best way to reduce rage is to invite your neighbors over for dinner.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

That’s flattering to think about…I’m on LinkedIn and our company website, should you wish to know more about us and why we do what we do, is

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), Journalist, Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor