Jimmy Suh of Arlo Hotels: The Future of Travel in The Post Covid World

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

--

My biggest joys in my career have often centered around team members’ growth — both in their career and in their skillset and learnings. I’m proud that I’ve been able to contribute to other people’s career growth. My current pursuit with Arlo is to democratize unique hotel stay experiences to a larger, inclusive audience and to find seamless (and innovative) ways for this audience to pay it forward.

As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jimmy Suh, Chief Commercial Officer at Arlo Hotels

Jimmy Suh is the Chief Commercial Officer at Arlo Hotels. He oversees all aspects related to brand marketing, sales, and revenue maximization with a specific goal of achieving the company’s commercial objectives and growth across the portfolio, including the brand’s forthcoming property, Arlo Wynwood, opening in October. Jimmy has worked at several prominent hotel companies including Loews, Kimpton, and The Standard, where he developed the “One Night Standard” app.

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

As with many folks who are in the industry, my career path to hotels was accidental. I had resigned from a position at an investment firm and was interning at an ad agency; however, with my savings quickly depleting, I had to find a source of income. One afternoon, I walked over to a Holiday Inn that was across the street from the ad agency and asked if they were hiring. I was interviewed on the spot and the rest is history. It was love at first check-in! To me, the hospitality industry is fascinating — folks from all walks of life have to work together, harmoniously, to put on a daily production.

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

One evening while working an overnight shift, Anthony Hopkins, the famous actor, wanted a cigar — it was nearly 1am! He apparently loves his stogies. Well, the hotel did not have any. Therefore, I sent the bellman to a local pharmacy and the bellman came back with a cheap box of cigars that cost no more than $10. I had no choice but to offer them to Mr. Hopkins (of course, I took the cigars out of the box and placed them nicely on a tray). When given the cigars, Mr. Hopkins sniffed one of the cigars, gave a perplexed look, and tipped me $100! Anthony Hopkins is pure gentleman, first-class person! We need more folks like him in the world. And yes, I gave the $100 to the bellman. We had a nice laugh.

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 an incident in which we had a typo when setting rates for a certain period — we were inadvertently selling rates under a $100 during a high demand period. The reservations came pouring in, once word got out on social media. It was at that time, I recognized the true power of social media. I took that experience and created an “oops rate” program to sell rooms during need periods … and it worked!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

Everyone should always remain curious, constantly asking yourself “WHY” (do we do the things we do, can there be a better way)? WHY is it that every hotel tries so hard to negotiate a better rate for the Googles and Amazons of the world, and leaves behind the thousands of small-medium size businesses that present a greater and more interesting opportunity for the hotels?? (a shameless plug for Arlo Means Business). Encourage everyone in whatever job he/she is in not to simply go through the daily motion, but to remain curious and finding the untapped niche. Finding and solving for that overlooked opportunity has always kept me hungry and motivated.

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?

There have been a few who have taught me valuable business and life learnings, but one person who stands out is Mike DeFrino, CEO of Kimpton Hotels. He’s the one who brought me into Kimpton hotels, where I served for nearly 9 years. He taught me not to sweat the small stuff because if you do, you lose sight of the bigger opportunities. He’s one of the funniest guys I know and has proven that humor is one of the most underrated traits in leadership. Mike has a great outlook on life and his principles are admirable. I’m happy to say he remains a good friend and a go-to advisor.

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?

My team and I are capitalizing on the intersection of social media and travel. We’re developing a platform where passionate travelers can act as a “social travel agent” for their friends and family. The qualified person — well-traveled individuals and advocates of Arlo Hotels — will be granted custom codes and links, which they can share with their social network via the application. The agent’s code will entitle their friends and family to discounted rates and other perks at Arlo Hotels. The social travel agent not only will be rewarded for their personal stays, but also will be recognized and rewarded for anyone who books and stays utilizing the agent’s code. To us, this is the ultimate loyalty or community program for a travel brand.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

We recognize that travelers often select their hotel based on a friend, family member, or colleague’s recommendation, or are influenced by a post they see on Instagram. It only makes sense, since people trust their friends and family the most. Today, there is no platform that bridges the gap where a traveler can see a trusted recommendation (from their friends) and at the same time, transact a booking … and at a discounted rate. Our innovation will solve that gap.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

Traditional brick and mortar travel agencies have had their lunches eaten by the online travel agencies (OTAs), such as Expedia and Booking.com. However, the customer often has a poor experience with the OTAs; for example, it doesn’t meet the traveler’s expectation, there is poor customer service, etc. Further, there’s friction between the hotels and the OTAs due to the high cost of customer acquisition (commissions hotels pay the OTAs). And the customer often experiences the brunt of the relationship. With our future platform, we envision creating a new, optimal in-house distribution channel for Arlo Hotels … and possibly other hotels.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 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?

Hotel loyalty programs will evolve.

Hotels will have a more difficult time distinguishing a leisure travel and a business traveler — and frankly, they shouldn’t worry about it all that much. Everyone simply wants the same great experience.

Hotels will have to find a way to steer away from the standard and constrained check-in/out times. It’s the most inhospitable service in a world of hospitality.

Mobile phones will have a much greater role throughout the customer stay journey — from bookings (mobile wallet), payment, SMS/chat for service, and digital tipping,

Every hotel should be pet friendly.

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

A perfect vacation experience would be traveling to a destination — cherished or new; a road trip, or jet-setting across the Atlantic — with the loved ones; discovering new experiences together which leave you longing for more. There’s nothing better than a shared vacation memory.

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.

I couldn’t agree with you more. Connecting with new cultural experiences and humans is what travel is all about. I haven’t done a good job for myself in the last couple of years, finding that wellness experience in my own travel. I’m long overdue.

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

My biggest joys in my career have often centered around team members’ growth — both in their career and in their skillset and learnings. I’m proud that I’ve been able to contribute to other people’s career growth. My current pursuit with Arlo is to democratize unique hotel stay experiences to a larger, inclusive audience and to find seamless (and innovative) ways for this audience to pay it forward.

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. 😊

I would campaign for a government-funded international study/living program as part of a higher education curriculum. Traveling and learning to embrace other countries’ culture can break prejudicial barriers and have humans be far more accepting of others’ point of view. It would bring so much good to the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@arlohotels

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

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.

Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.

He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, Food Network, WW, and Bloomberg. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.

Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.

--

--

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor