Sustainability, environmental and corporate social responsibility will be at the fore-front. Companies will have to include them in their strategies and plans, it cannot be an afterthought anymore. Meeting planners and individual travelers are inquiring from hotels, before booking, as to what practices they have in place for sustainability. People are becoming responsible travelers!
As part of my series about “exciting developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tauseen Malik. Currently, Malik is the general manager for the centrally located, 16-story Portland hotel, The Porter. Given Portland’s recent hotel boom, Malik believes hotels need to take strategic steps to remain relevant to all guests. He and the team at The Porter are continuously creating unique, quintessentially Portland experiences through the property’s amenities, programming and community experiences. Specifically, The Porter offers its guests four unique dining options, including a fine dining experience, lively rooftop bar, pizza window and artisan shop. The Porter also boasts an expansive library, wellness level, meditation spa and indoor pool. As for programming, The Porter has led initiatives such as “flower bombing” the presidential suite for Valentine’s Day, an over the top New Years Eve Party and more. Lastly, The Porter engages with its community, including a partnership with Classic Wines Auction in support of five local nonprofits. And it’s not just Portland’s hotel market that’s hot. Vacation rental companies see great opportunity here, too; Vacasa (a growing vacation rental management company) is based in Portland, and Airbnb also has one of its 21 offices here. Malik believes it is his responsibility, as a hotelier, to sell Portland as a destination and increase tourism rather than just shifting the share from one hotel or vacation rental to the other.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was fortunate to start traveling at a very young age with my parents, which sparked intrigue in me to learn more about new cultures and places. When the time came to make a career choice, I wanted to pursue something that I was passionate about; which was connecting with people, learning about new cultures and traveling. Naturally, working in hospitality was the perfect choice. I have also always been fascinated by business; and hospitality gave me an opportunity to learn about the essence of hospitality, but at the same time understand the business of hospitality.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
A few years back, I took an opportunity in the Middle East as resort manager of a luxury resort in Saudi Arabia. It was an interesting experience from the beginning, as the resort was owned by the royal family. Before meeting our chairman, the Prince, I had to undergo protocol training on all the royal etiquettes. The two years I spent there were full of learning experiences, such as working in a different culture, with different cuisine and learning the cultural dos and don’ts, all while also trying to turn around a resort that was not performing. It was an amazing experience.
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?
Yes, there is a story I will never forget. It happened in my first year at an internship in Switzerland. I was hired by a fine dining restaurant in Geneva as an intern. I showed up at this restaurant in a suit and the first thing they asked me to do was change into a uniform. The restaurant’s general manager approached me and said that for the first two weeks I would be vacuuming and cleaning the restaurant and I responded by saying that there must have been some confusion, I am from the Swiss Hotel Management School. He said, “I know and that’s why I am letting you vacuum this restaurant”. I have often shared this story, it was one of those moments which made me realize what this industry is all about, you have to leave your ego aside and be hands-on.
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?
Over the years I have learned that it is critical that you work with people and companies where your values and philosophies are aligned. People in this industry are hard-working and passionate so typically the burn-out is not due to long hours or too much work. Mostly it is emotional stress by working for leaders and or companies with different core values. I have worked for a company that was tough and had strict guidelines and drivers that you had to meet as a general manager, but it was never stressful because of the streamlined communication processes in place and most importantly the overall culture fit of the company.
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?
I have been very fortunate to work for some great leaders who have supported me and mentored me along the way. To be successful, having the right work ethic and values is of paramount importance. I was very inspired by my father and his work philosophies, and I credit him for the work ethic that I have today.
One more person who has been a mentor to me is Mr. Jim Long, CEO of Heritage Hotels & Resorts. He has been my mentor since 2013 and even though I am no longer working for his company, we still remain in touch and I still reach out for guidance and advice. I think as an industry, we need to do much better at ensuring that we are mentoring future and current leaders. Many times, people get promoted to leadership roles because of hard work and a great work ethic, but they are not fully trained to lead leaders and companies need to take that into consideration.
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?
The essence of this industry has always remained the same which is to take care of our guests and anticipate their expectations. I personally feel passionate about improving and innovating the wellness programs at hotels. I think there is immense room for improvement and in our offerings at the property level when it comes to wellness options and programs. At my current hotel, The Porter in Portland, we have a thoughtful wellness program. Apart from having a wellness level featuring a pool, fitness area, steamed room, sauna and yoga classes, we also have an area with natural light fully dedicated for meditation. I think meditation programs, aside from yoga classes, at hotels are going to be immensely popular and well received.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
Traveling has become arduous, travel is not the same as it used to be prior to 9/11. Guests are exhausted both physically and mentally by the time they arrive at hotels. Meditation and wellness programs can significantly help alleviate those pain points.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
While there are hotels that offer thoughtful wellness programs, most properties do not have that level of offerings and services. This can also be an interesting differentiator when we are comparing hotels to Airbnb options. Airbnb has in a way forced some hotels to come up with differentiators and give travelers compelling reasons to stay at a hotel rather than an Airbnb. As people gravitate towards wellness, meditation is certainly going to be trendy and sought after. It is already big in many countries globally.
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 like to travel?
We are already experiencing changes within hospitality in the last few years as we gear to tailor our products and services to the evolving landscape of travelers and millennials. A few things that I anticipate happening over the next five years:
1. Introduction of new brands, hospitality companies are constantly evolving and introducing new brands to cater to specific segments. Lifestyle brands will continue to evolve with focus on food & beverage experiences and partnering with local talented chefs. The design of new hotels has also changed significantly over the years, with social spaces becoming more of a trend. That will continue to evolve in the lifestyle segment and even in traditional hotels. Hotels will strive to offer authentic and local experiences through partnerships, design and food & beverage programing.
2. Technology is going to continue to play an instrumental role in our industry and companies will need to find the right balance of using technology and not sacrificing personal service. Overall technology will make the guest experience more convenient. Seamless connectivity across the board for guests and all users will be critical. Technology has also made travel to new places easier and that trend will continue to grow.
3. A recent trend that we are witnessing is the blend of leisure travel with business travel. Travelers will continue to extend business trips to explore and get to connect with these cities.
4. Sustainability, environmental and corporate social responsibility will be at the fore-front. Companies will have to include them in their strategies and plans, it cannot be an afterthought anymore. Meeting planners and individual travelers are inquiring from hotels, before booking, as to what practices they have in place for sustainability. People are becoming responsible travelers!
5. From a labor perspective as the industry grows, we will be competing to retain the best of the talent. The best talent will work for companies with the best culture, values, benefits, wages and growth opportunities.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
This is something personal and people have different tastes. For me staying on schedule is a great start. On my vacation I like to experience what the locals are experiencing, the restaurants they frequent, the trails they hike on, the golf courses they play at and the must-sees of that city or town. By the time my vacation is over, I want to feel immersed in that place.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think one of the ways you can bring goodness to the world is by giving back, I am a firm believer in that philosophy. One example that I can share is that I like to mentor upcoming leaders and also people who are wanting to pursue the hospitality industry. You can check out my article on LinkedIn titled, Is hospitality the right choice for you?
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. :-)
This is a great question! I am a believer in education. If we look at history, we will notice that civilizations, countries and generations have prospered because of education. Education has played an instrumental role in countries who are now referred to as emerging economies. My movement would be to get everyone educated. This is something that remains lifelong and benefits not only that person but their entire family.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@tauseenm on Instagram and @TauseenM on twitter.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!