Expect consumers to want to more unique experiences — Not only will hospitality companies cater to guests requests, but guests want to be offered access to destination-specific elements. This may be something as simple as having pieces by local artists in the room to suggesting dinner at the “unknown to tourists” local hangout.
As part of my series about “exciting developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Carrico. Brian is the co-founder and co-CEO of The Guild, where he oversees the Real Estate, Finance, Operations and People Departments of the company. He previously Co-founded Alexa Management, a hotel development and management company that specializes in unique hospitality operations. Brian holds an MBA in Business and a BS in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, he holds an MS in Environmental Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When he’s not working, you can catch him on a biking trail with his family, or at a live music venue with his wife for date night.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I actually got into the hospitality industry thanks to my wife and her family. My wife and I were working as consultants and when we decided to leave that career path we ultimately ended up back in the town where she grew up. She and her family owned a small resort on the river in West Texas and after our move, we decided to take over running the business.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The guest experience has always been our number one priority at The Guild and our employees consistently go above and beyond to fulfill our guests’ every want and need. One time a guest requested to stock their fridge with a very specific red velvet flavored non-fat yogurt. The team had to scour eight different stores, but we eventually found the yogurt and had it in time for the guest’s arrival.
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?
We learned the hard way that you really need to work out the kinks before you launch a technology-based company. While we should have been able to offer remote access to our rooms, we launched before the system was 100% up and running. This meant we had to meet every single guest in-person to let them into their room. One night, close to midnight, we got a request from Hotel Tonight and so my co-founder and I rushed over to the hotel to check in the guest. And it’s a good thing we put forth that effort because that guest has since become a huge friend of our brand, referring many of our corporate clients.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our staff is what makes The Guild stand out, and we wouldn’t be able to offer our guests the superior experience we do without them. I feel extremely lucky to work with a group of people who will do just about anything to make sure our guests have the perfect stay. One example that always comes to mind is during the holiday season when we had long-term guests that would be staying over Christmas. They wanted the room to be decked out for the holiday and so our team went all out — a Christmas tree, ornaments, garland; they turned the hotel room into a winter escape.
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?
We’re in the travel industry, so my best advice to my colleagues is to get out from behind your desk, travel and give yourself a perspective on the destinations, cultures and even other companies in our space. We should be enjoying the industry we’re in! I recently went on a long weekend trip where I stayed in a really cool boutique hotel and it was really inspiring. I came back to work ready to improve on what we can do at The Guild to make sure our guests have great experiences.
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?
Chip Conley has always been a hospitality hero of mine, and we were lucky enough to bring him on to advise The Guild in 2018. He’s been incredibly influential and we share several of the same values around not only how to treat guests, but also employees. He’s been massively helpful in guiding us and keeping our compass pointing in the right direction during some big company decisions.
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?
Home shares gained in popularity because they offer guests the comfort of home, but they struggle to control the offline experience; they’re only a listing and booking platform. Traditional hotels can cater to guests’ needs more easily because of their service element, but the chains are outdated, overpriced, and lack the amenities guests want.
The Guild combines these two models together and gives our guests beautifully designed spaces with kitchens and living rooms in vibrant neighborhoods, and access to a 24/7 digital concierge. Our hotels are in mixed-use buildings, which typically have some combination of apartments, retail or office space. We lease out multiple floors in these buildings and then turn them into blocks of studio, 1- and 2-bedroom suites. Personalization is key, and The Guild is able to accommodate any size request — from fridge fills to concert tickets to room service from the city’s best restaurants and even babysitters.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
There’s a trend in travel right now and an increasing number of travelers want accommodation options that don’t disrupt their day-to-day lifestyle. The Guild is able to reduce the friction that comes when traveling to a new place by offering our guests beautiful spaces that are set up like a home, with access to extremely knowledgable Guild employees who can fulfill any request. Whether guests are traveling for work or leisure, we want them to feel like they are in control.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Right now, people have lower expectations around how much the guest experience is integrated into technology and the advantage that technology can bring to the travel industry. The current status quo is to do everything on your own. Incorporating technology will certainly disrupt this. If guests have a 24/7 concierge at their fingertips, they can quickly bring the best of wherever they’re visiting right to their doorstep. We’re going to see people start expecting this pretty soon. Much like they expect a hotel to have towels and shampoo they will expect a hotel to provide them with a bespoke experience.
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. The layout of rooms — The popularity of homeshare companies is already changing guests’ room preferences. Cramped rooms don’t cut it anymore. People want spaces that look like where they live.
2. More will be accomplished through technology and less manually — Expect to see a larger digital presence of app-based communication and services.
3. Customization and personalization — A guest will no longer think of personal touches and the option to add their own preferences as a nice-to-have; it will be necessary.
4. Offer value and rewards to the employees — In order to compete for talent, hospitality companies will have to be more thoughtful about the employee experience.
5. Expect consumers to want to more unique experiences — Not only will hospitality companies cater to guests requests, but guests want to be offered access to destination-specific elements. This may be something as simple as having pieces by local artists in the room to suggesting dinner at the “unknown to tourists” local hangout.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
My goal when I travel is to better understand the people and the culture when I leave. I love going to a city or country I’ve never been to before and being able to stay in a place that is comfortable and laid out really well. When I travel, I want to stay somewhere that understands my preferences and tries to reduce friction as much as possible so that I can spend time getting to know a destination better. It’s a place that anticipates my needs, asks questions, and finds a way to smooth out the entire experience.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As a company, we are committed to giving back to the communities we serve, and we participate in service days with various organizations at least once a quarter. We also support local craftsman and business owners in each of our markets by using their products in our rooms or sending guests directly to their establishments.
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 love to see more companies adopt a customer/guest first mentality and to do the things to support this mentality that may not be the most easily traceable for the company’s bottom line.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We’re on Instagram and Facebook @theguild.co, or if you’re ready for a trip, head to theguild.co to book a room.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!