Interview with Jason Campbell
Jason is an executive hotel expert providing strategic support to millennial targeted concepts such as hotels, hostels, and coliving products which focus on local programming, operational execution and experiential activations.
He is the owner of Next Generation Hospitality, collaborative, balanced hospitality focused on creative strategies and operational execution to adapt products and services to millennial travelers.
Jason is also the Owner of Hospitalitarians
, a millennial based travel agency for experiential trips. They travel the world to provide others with first hand recommendations, customized itineraries and concierge services. Made for travelers, by travelers.
Hi, Jason! Tell us about your work with Marriott and how this lead you to start two hospitality companies.
It's a great question - Mariott was a phenomenal company to work for. I spent 10 years with them, beginning in full-service food and beverage operations, moving into limited-service operations - including opening of a limited-service hotel here in Virginia, where I'm from. Then I traveled with them full-time, supporting other hotel openings across the domestic US, and the second half of my career with them I spent in leadership roles. One of them was leading a global operations task force team for the full-service and luxury properties, and then eventually leading the hotel openings team for the Americas, including Canada, the US and Mexico. And when I left Marriott in 2016, I left because - under very good terms and amazing time that I'd spent with them - but I had seen all of the efforts that they were making as a company to adapt their products and services to the upcoming generations - the millennials, the Gen Z's - who had different travel and spending habits, and I wanted to get a better understanding firsthand of what those changes in habits were. And so I had booked a one way ticket to Europe, packed a backpack, and spent 18 months traveling abroad - understanding hotel hybrids, hostels, guesthouses and the next-gen travelers that I was standing side-by-side with. And that was what led me to launch Hospitalitarians, and allow people an opportunity to travel off the beaten path, and provide more culture and authentic experiences than just your typical all-inclusive resort stay. And that eventually led to providing additional consulting services to other hospitality companies, that are transitioning their products and services for these upcoming travelers that are going to make up the market moving forward. And in 2020 you're going to have over half of the workforce be millennials, and so the timing has been perfect to be able to offer those services to other companies.
What do typical hotels and hostels get wrong, and how do you solve these problems through Next Generation Hospitality and Hospitalitarians?
Hey guys! Always a good question, just from my perspective what hotels and hostels get wrong. And I think one of the pieces comes back to employees - the most important part of this industry because they're guest-facing, and often the first interaction with your clientele - when they walk in the door of the hotel or past the host in the restaurant, or for a touring activity that you're taking them out on - and I think sometimes there's a tendency to over-script some of the positions in hospitality and require them to touch on X Y and Z, which can take away from this personal connection with the guest, which is really - especially today, for our generation - what people are looking for. I think there's a bit of a mindshift that we have to continue to communicate and train on, which is to really trust our employees when we're hiring - make sure we're hiring the right people - but empower them to be themselves, to let their personality show. Because that's going to translate into these authentic connections that our guests are yearning for; and are coming to our establishments to get; and is going to create a competitive advantage for us, knowing that when we let our true personalities show our guests see that, they know that it's genuine, and that's the best type of hospitality that you can provide. So as often as we can, continue to make sure that we need to do the administrative things that we need to do, but really let our personal opinion and recommendations come out during those interactions with the guests, so that we can customize the experience just for them, while providing the feedback and the intricate knowledge that we have as an individual to really create a wild experience for them that they're never gonna forget.
As travel gets more affordable and accessible, more and more young people are exploring the world. How do your companies keep up, especially in terms of cost?
You know, it's a great question, and travel is becoming more affordable and accessible. I like to think of it as globalization finally hitting the tourism market, with these amazing low-fare airline companies, like Norwegian Air; the commercial carriers launching things like basic fares; the visa policies becoming more attainable across the world, especially for U.S. citizens; and this emergence of budget-type accommodations that continue to arise across the world, is allowing people to explore more than just their hometown. And I think that is having a massive cultural shift within our millennial and Gen Z generation, of really opening our eyes to other types of lifestyles that are attainable and very much the norm in different parts of the world compared to what they may have known, especially growing up in somewhere like America. I think at the same time though, it creates an interesting challenge, because although we have such easy access to information about everything, it can also be very confusing and it can also be very time-consuming. So I think what travelers are looking for now is somebody that really has some firsthand experience, as well as an open mind to be able to share that knowledge and then customize it for the type of traveler that they're speaking with. And I think there's a competitive advantage there, that our companies are trying to create and offer that authenticity back to travelers. Because we've been on the ground and we've sent different types of personalities to these locations, and interacted with different types of guests, that we can be able to pass that knowledge on, and accompany what they've read about, and maybe vet some of the misconceptions that are there and really give them a unique perspective that they trust, they can follow through with thereafter.
What's next for you? What directions are you planning to take Next Generation Hospitality and Hospitalitarians in the future?
Always a fun question! What's next for us is to continue to grow both of the businesses independently. I actually see an opportunity, potentially, for these two groups to come together and support each other down the road. One of the emerging trends over the past two years that continues to gain steam is the touring activity part of travel. The idea around booking experiences is predicted to be the third-largest industry within hospitality and travel - just underneath hotel and flight bookings, and larger than the rental car industry. By 2020, they're predicting it to be about a 183 billion-dollar industry. So it'll be interesting to see if Hospitalitarians, and some of the unique itinerary planning services that that group offers, converges with Next Generation Hospitality, and being able to help companies adapt their products and services to become a leader within the touring activity space. I think that's a really interesting opportunity in the future, we'll certainly continue to push with both groups forward independently until then. And I think one of the other areas that we're starting to think about - just based on some of the economic data coming out of the U.S. - is the potential for a recession here domestically, which would then transcend into a global recession in the next nine to eighteen months, based on some of the figures that are coming out of some of the Fed, and other journalists and economists here in the U.S.. So that could take an interesting turn for the industry, I think we'll see a lot more merger and acquisition happening, especially among some of the larger companies, which has been occurring over the past few years. And hope that we have some good clients that we've already lined up that continue to offer us more opportunity to assist in those types of deals, and others thereafter.