The Future Of Travel: “Traveling is how you express yourself” with Jay Roberts and Candice Georgiadis
Social media and inspired tourism: Millennials want to post cool photos and stories to document their experiences. Traveling is how you express yourself. Travelers choose locations for how cool a photo you can take.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jay Roberts, the Co-Founder and CEO of Domio, a rapidly growing technology platform focused on travel. Domio is revolutionizing friends and family travel by creating branded apartment-hotels. Prior to Domio, he was an investment banker at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, advising REITs, real estate private equity firms, hotels and global casinos in strategic M&A, IPOs, and capital markets deals.
Thank you for joining us Jay! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After graduating from NYU’s Stern School of Business, I worked in real estate investment banking and acquisitions as an investment banker at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York where I specialized in institutional real estate mergers, acquisitions, initial public offerings and capital market transactions. During this time, I began renting out a spare bedroom in my apartment near Time Square and quickly realized it was extremely profitable. I found that there was an opportunity to provide better experiences to travelers. A less ‘wildcard’ experience in every market and more branded, comfortable and reliable experience for travelers who are seeking human connection and authenticity — this is how Domio was created.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Throughout my career, I’ve always focused on helping other people and keeping my commitments. It’s so important to build genuine relationships with your colleagues and people in your industry. Your reputation is everything. When I was thinking about starting Domio, my coworkers from the Bank of America wanted to invest with me and they trusted me. My first three investors were from the bank, then it was a domino effect and more people in the network invested. Every round of fundraising we’ve done, we’ve had former colleagues in the round or people connected to former colleagues. An interesting story is when I was invited back to my bank to speak at a lodging conference along with the CEO of Hilton and other industry executives. Bottom line, things come full circle, so it’s important to treat everyone you interact with respect.
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?
A funny story is when we were called City Share (the first name of the company) and my co-founder Adrian was walking down the street of Manhattan and noticed a familiar logo for a real estate company that looked almost identical to our logo. It was at that moment, we realized we should undergo a rebranding, so we hired Prophet to guide us through that process. Through that 6-week process, we rebranded to Domio and became the purple logo’d company we are today.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
1) We’re obsessed with delighting our customers. Everyone in the company is focused on it and knows when we have promoters and what our daily NPS score is. We’re constantly training our staff to delight and surprise guests as happy guests are the key to our success. Differentiation through customer service is not something that happens overnight, but it happens slowly one interaction at a time, but word of mouth is powerful and that’s what we’re focused on. Creating an army of happy customers.
2) More and beautiful space — while a lot of the hospitality industry is going with smaller rooms, Domio is providing larger spaces for people to stay in together rather than be spread across multiple expensive rooms across different floors. We want our guests to have privacy but be able to connect with one another and have the space to be comfortable.
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?
One of Domio’s core values is “Enjoy the Journey — take time to travel and explore the world.” As a travel company, we want to make sure we support and encourage our team to take time off and go explore the world. People come back with fresh perspectives and full of new energy. Make sure that you consciously incorporate personal travel into your schedule. During the winter I like to spend time in Miami to get Vitamin D, lay by the beach and jet ski or wake surf. It’s important to unplug and recharge (not always think about work). You come back fresh and ready to go. This year, I plan to go to Tulum, Tokyo, and Shanghai (all places I’ve never been).
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?
My adopted parents. My biological parents in Korea were too poor to raise me, so they put me in an orphanage where I lived for the first few months of my life. I was fortunate to be adopted and immigrated to the United States and grew up in Southern California. My mom was a secretary and my father sorted mail at the post office. We weren’t rich by any means, but my family instilled a very strong work ethic and belief that I could do whatever I put my mind to. They were a real positive influence on me. They gave me the opportunity to grow up in America. Unfortunately, they both passed away my senior year of college, but not before giving me the gift of education and a good upbringing with a set of core values that equipped me to pursue the American Dream.
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?
Creating a new segment in hospitality called Apartment-hotels. Domio lives at the intersection of technology, travel, hospitality, and real estate.
We’re providing larger spaces where friends and families can connect. We want our customers to have the confidence of staying in a hotel but in the comfort of a larger home.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
Traditional home sharing (amateurs) — there’s a lack of consistency, reliability, and trust. It can really be a ‘wild card experience’
At Domio, we tried to look into the future and invent beautiful places that our guests will love and create lifelong memories that become a part of who they are
Domio is obsessed with delighting our customers and revolutionizing the home sharing industry
Traditional hotel rooms are too small for families and friends and are very costly
Domio provides a more affordable alternative for families and friends traveling together and costs 20–30% less than staying in hotels
You can also all stay under one roof and connect with each other. Traveling is about sharing new experiences, new cultures, meeting new people. We are connecting people under one roof which provides a more personal experience
The best memories I have from traveling are when staying in one place with my friends and hanging out and laughing about the adventure we went on
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Larger and more affordable spaces = more access to travel
Travel won’t be seen as a luxury but is available to everyone no matter their socioeconomic situation
Big box, sterile — always have to compromise something depending on price — big box, maybe not so authentic and curated, boutique can be expensive, continue to innovate a product that embodies something for everyone
Human side back to travel — take a second to put your phone down, create experiences for the moment, the city, enjoy the people you’re with
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?
1. Shoppable rooms and spaces: With the rise of technology and access on your phones, customers find pieces when they are traveling that they want to take home with them or incorporate into their home (order). We’ll be seeing more of this Domio is doing it and so is Soho House, Restoration Hardware’s hotel in Meatpacking NYC.
2. Social media and inspired tourism: Millennials want to post cool photos and stories to document their experiences. Traveling is how you express yourself. Travelers choose locations for how cool a photo you can take.
3. Wellness-focused hotels and retreats: People are looking to rejuvenate while on vacation — fitness, spas, massages, healthy eating, yoga, meditation, spending time with other like-minded people away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I see people going on more vacations to get away from city life and be one with nature.
4. Design-driven with focus on local: Hospitality brands will be incorporating more curated and local experiences into the rooms or apart-hotels. Travelers are looking for unique but clean and consistent spaces.
5. More affordable: With the rise of low-cost airlines and more routes for that matter, traveling has become more accessible to more people and that’s a great thing. Traveling is no longer just for wealthy people. Travel is a human right that everyone deserves.
6. Group travel (friends and families): More and more families and friends want to stay in one space together where they can connect and it’s more affordable.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Starting off with a city or destination that I haven’t been before.
Excited about what it has to offer, have seen or heard about the restaurants, sights, people, culture have to offer — a memorable adventure.
Book flights, find a place to stay that is close to the action — downtown, value? Luxury? Good energy, a lot of space to enjoy with the people I’m traveling with.
Common space — connect with other people, local people, new, other travelers.
Some items on the agenda but have the freedom to explore, take experiences as they come.
Israel — adventure to a place that people had so many great things to say about, steep with a lot of history — warm weather, amazing beaches, the sun was the perfect temp — people were so friendly and food and wine were excellent.
I felt more connected to the local culture and people and more connected to friends who are from that area where we could share that common experience — see the world through their eyes.
Coming back and sharing the amazing experience and stories with others so they could also explore and see for themselves — can give rec’s to friends and family.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Travel is a personal experience, it’s everyone’s human right and by offering more affordable spaces, we give access — democratizing travel and bringing friends and families together.
New perspective — empathy for other people, cultures — understanding of the world and acceptance and awareness — realization we’re all one — making the world a better place.
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. :-)
Companies giving their employees unlimited time off. Your employees are your greatest asset. You should encourage them to grow personally by exploring the world. I promise they’ll be happier and they’ll make your customers happier and happy customers will make you happier as a manager and will make your investors happy. Hire people that you trust so that you don’t have to worry about them abusing the system. I imagine a world where employees are encouraged to travel and take trips people celebrate other people’s travels rather than shaming people for taking vacation. At Domio, we celebrate our employees’ travels and have a wallpaper collage of our employees traveling around the world. Traveling is in our DNA.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you for sharing all of this!