Avi Goldstein, CEO and founder of HotelRooms.com, is a trailblazer in the travel website industry. Before Goldstein earned his reputation as a luxury vacation aficionado and entrepreneur, he attended Queens and Touro Colleges in New York, earning his degree in Business Management. Though at the time he did not know what career path lay ahead, he was always motivated to work hard, think outside the box, and believed that success would follow.
As the use of websites became ubiquitous around the turn of the millennium, Goldstein had the foresight to secure his place in that ever-evolving marketplace by purchasing domain names he felt had substantial potential for growth. Avi Goldstein knew that if he could not build a business around a clever, engaging name, someone else could. Goldstein strategically carved out his own foundation for limitless possibility online. He launched HotelRooms.com in June of 2000. Of the domain names he owned and pursued, the hotel rooms endeavor seemed to be garnering the best market response. HotelRooms.com began its journey to serve travelers when Goldstein developed the site and went live with a forty-thousand-page website. The site was the first of its kind and provided the means for consumers to book directly with hotels. In order to ease the expense for his hotel clients who were betting on him, Goldstein chose a payment model that worked within the hotel’s advertising budget.
A decade after the birth of HotelRooms.com, Goldstein noticed an opportunity in the market and consequently launched Luxury Connections in June of 2010. Luxury Connections is a VIP travel site that caters to VIP flight and hotel accommodations offering renowned concierge, personal, and exclusive services.
HotelRooms.com never sought to be a third-party travel site. Goldstein did not want to be the middleman and left that saturated market to the Expedias and Pricelines of the world. When he created his model, it strived to work directly with the hotels, encouraging them to provide services that resembled an online hotel supermarket. Goldstein knew that hotels preferred to bypass Online Travel Agencies (OTA) and third-party travel sites. The hotels were always more interested in reaching the consumer directly, and Goldstein had given them a way to do that while being online.
HotelRooms.com began with only seventy-three hotels listed, which were all recruited by Goldstein; putting in the legwork and forming relationships. There was no precedent for this type of business, and the hotels ultimately placed their trust in Goldstein. Their trust paid off, resulting in HotelRooms.com prospering enormously which now serves over thirty-thousand hotels all over the world.
What skills do you possess that made you a successful entrepreneur?
I don’t know if I even knew what an “entrepreneur” was when I started. Becoming one was certainly not my goal. I just entered the business-world with a positive outlook and a willingness to work really hard. As far as an actual skill-set, I cannot claim I had any to speak of. Skills in a field are something that come later in life, through experience, trial and error, and learning from veterans and professionals. I started my career with limited skills, but an abundance of energy and optimism. It comes down to the right attitude, fearlessness, willingness to fail, and an open mind. Skills, in my opinion, are much less important than attitude. You will sharpen your skills over time, but attitude and outlook are what every successful entrepreneur needs.
How does managing two successful businesses differ from managing one?
Well, the fact that in my case the two businesses I manage are offshoots of each other, my answer needs to be taken in that context. Since my businesses are related there is a certain level of inter-management. I do not want to pretend like I am someone who has experience managing two vastly diverse businesses. For both of my businesses I have the same philosophy. I focus on quality and I make sure that I am up to date on everything going on in the field. Educating myself for HotelRooms.com benefits and promotes Luxury Connections, and vice versa. The work load tends to be more aggressive with two businesses, but at the end of the day it is all about setting goals and time stamps to make sure everything gets done efficiently.
What time management skills do you recommend our readers utilize?
I like to prepare my agenda for the next day the night before. This way I know exactly what I am doing the next day and I have proper time stamps for my commitments. I can try to delegate certain things and schedule calls and meetings that I need to prepare for.
Another very important aspect of time management is setting the tone. Have the same expectations from yourself that you demand from your team and your clients. You want to always be responsive to emails and calls, so not only can you expect responsiveness from the people you work with, but also you can un-hypocritically demand it from them. People judge you based on your behavior. I am very responsive which is how I am able to manage my time properly.
How did you know it was the right time to diversify and open a second business?
Luxury Connections grew directly from HotelRooms.com. It came about because clients were asking for it. I had clients reaching out for advice, discounts, upgrades, recommendations – all related to high-end flights, accommodations, and experiences. We were already an excellent resource providing these services to specific clientele. We then just leveraged our intimate relationships with hotels, airlines, agents, and tour operators all over the world and decided it was time to create a one-stop-shop for luxury travel. Luxury Connections came about in an organic manner as we identified a market need via direct customer feedback.
How did you grow your network to over 30,000+ partnerships?
Like I said at the beginning of the interview, I came into this venture with very few skills, but one of them was a willingness to put in the time. I grew the business with my sweat, time, and a nothing-to-lose mindset. Each hotel was recruited by old fashioned cold calls and hitting the pavement to make each and every connection. I wasn’t handed a portfolio of hotels (or even contact information!). I started with nothing and it was my hard work and dedication that achieved this.
What advice do you have for anyone starting in the travel industry?
This is obviously a period in flux, but the advice is the same as any other industry. Passion is the most important thing, but particularly for travel. Customers are very particular when it comes to travel and they have very high – almost impractical – expectations. They want their vacations to be a perfect experience without any excuses. Hey, I can’t control the weather. When you are entering the travel industry you have to be prepared for the complaints as much as the appreciation.
Due to the current situation, I recommend that when entering the industry be extra frugal. If we had conducted this interview six-months ago my response would be different, but for now it is important to remain frugal when entering the industry.
What predictions do you have for the travel industry in 2021?
I am very optimistic, and I do feel that the second things get back to normal we will see a huge spike in travel. People are ready to get out. They have been in quarantine for so many months, and have gone through hardships. Travel is rewarding, fulfilling, and soothing, and I do feel that we will see a big increase in travel. I anticipate there to be a small boost in corporate travel, but we will see a larger boost in leisure travel.
How do you motivate your employees to achieve their fullest potential?
I like to consider myself a reflective person and manager. I’m open to all possibilities and I build relationships accordingly. Always willing to listen and learn from others. I motivate my employees, I hope, by showing that I, a.) care about them, and b.) work as hard as they do. I motivate my team by praising them when they deserve it, and by helping them improve when I notice areas of weakness.
What is the most important step in starting a business?
Going all in. I know this level of commitment and faith is not for everyone, but that is my philosophy. Even if it is a fantasy based on the industry and field, believe that you will eventually be the leader of the pack. Going in being positive, focused, and prepared to hustle, is what is needed to get ahead and build a successful business.
How do you remain ahead of the competition?
I don’t worry about being ahead of anyone. I worry about my customers, my clients, and my employees. Good things come when you make sure those relying on you are accounted for, taken care of, and happy. We don’t worry about the competition – we worry about being the best versions of ourselves to remain ahead of the competition.