Aug 16, 2023

Episode 113

Emlyn Brown

Emlyn Brown Accor


With a father in the military, the Paris-based Emlyn Brown attended 13 schools over 18 years. During high school in Munich, he traveled constantly with his family, from Italy to Cyprus and Hong Kong. He graduated from the University of Manchester in the UK with a degree in leisure and sport, and furthered his education in the field by studying sport science and psychology.

That led him to his first job with Holmes Place, a health, fitness, and wellness concept, which Brown describes as the Equinox of the 1990s. His seven-year journey there took him from the sales floor to eventually becoming the area director for Europe. Today, his résumé is a who’s who of gamechanging wellness brands, including Six Senses, GOCO Hospitality, Resense Spa, and Accor, where he currently serves as the global senior vice president of wellbeing. In this podcast episode, Brown explains how if wellbeing is done right, it creates a sense of community.


Stacy Shoemaker Rauen: Hi, I’m here with Emlyn Brown, global vice president of wellbeing at Accor. Thanks so much for joining me today. So excited to talk with you.

Emlyn Brown: Yeah, great to be here. Thank you, Stacy.

SSR: Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?

EB: Well, that’s a good question because I grew up pretty much in lots of different places. My father was in the military. I spent a lot of time in the UK, obviously, but a large amount of my time in Central Europe, particularly in Germany. Had about 13 schools over the course of 18 years. When it comes down to, say, growing up, I’ll probably say maybe I haven’t grown up just yet, even though I’m 51 years of age, but growing up probably took place in the northwest of England, where I went to University of Manchester. That’s where my family now lives and, also, where a lot of my friends are still based so that for me is what I call home.

SSR: Amazing. What were you like as a kid? Did you travel a lot because of your father, and get to experience a lot of different things?

EB: Yeah, the travel piece probably came through that because, obviously, we moved every, probably, two or three years. I spent a lot of time living in Germany, particularly in Southern Germany, in Munich. For example, in my high school years, which was pretty formative for me, we traveled constantly. We were very, very fortunate that my dad was taken to Italy or taking to Cyprus or gone to Hong Kong. He was always about bringing us with him. The family unit was really, really important for him. Whereas, in many cases, his peers would send his children back to school in the UK, we always went away with our family. That was really quite formative for me. As a child, what was I like? Well, I’ll have to speak my mom and dad about that, but certainly full of energy. I wouldn’t say I had a very interesting educational experience because of all the different schools and changes that I had, but certainly, I would say inquisitive. Loved sport, loved being outdoors. My mom and dad could never get me in the house. I was always out of the house, running around doing something different. I think a lot of curiosity would probably be the best word.

SSR: Got it. What did you end up going to school for?

EB: Well, I did my high school in Munich, in Germany. And then I went back to Manchester and did my initial education in leisure and sport, and then a further education in sport science and psychology. So, really, I come from a sort of sport and health background. It was always a particular passion playing sport. Rugby, football, cricket, whatever it would be. I loved the group dynamic. I loved being outdoors and being active, and playing sport in a team environment. That naturally led me, I think, to an interest within the sport psychology and leisure management side of the business. That’s really what I did.

Banyan Tree Alula, designed by AW2 Architecture and Interiors; photo courtesy of Accor

SSR: Is that what you wanted to … you really wanted to go into sports and fitness?

EB: That’s a good question. Originally, I wanted to join the Army. That was really where my passion lay. Again, another sort of outdoor and active type of working environment. Very simply put, my father sat me down at about 16, 17 and said, “Well, look, I find it very hard to tell you what to do. Do you really want to be in an environment being told what to do for 25 years?” I said, “I don’t think I do.” So that’s why I ended up going into the sports realm. As much as I’ve got the deepest respect for people who serve, it wasn’t going to be for me, despite my consistent attractiveness to the ideals of those that it represents. But that was really where it came from. I think sport was a great way of me getting rid of my energy, and also being in a team and fun dynamic environment, you know?

SSR: So you went and did your studies. What was your first job out of school?

EB: Well, I did a couple of things, but I think that my first real, let’s call it working experience, working in the health club industry. I joined and worked for a group called Holmes Place. I think Holmes Place was a bit like the equinox of the ’90s. In the mid ’90s, not many people were members of health clubs. It was quite an unusual thing to be … particularly in the UK, to be a member of the luxury health club. Holmes Place was the luxury health club environment in London. We had about five clubs. When I joined that company, I worked in Kingston. It was about 80 to 100 pounds a month. We had beautiful swimming pools. It was fitness. This is more like the luminous aerobics, and step aerobics, and legs, bums and tums type of exercise environment. Much different to the exercises that we see today. I joined there as a sales guy doing what we call corporate sales, as in selling memberships to different people. But the way that the clubs were set up was that we had to also run the club, teach classes, be in the studio, teach personal training. It’s a very dynamic environment. You talk about three or 4,000 members coming into those clubs. It was a very young environment, very dynamic environment. A lot of sports people working there. It was a lot of fun. That was really what my first job was.

SSR: Did you teach classes?

EB: I did, yes. Many years ago. Looking at me now, you wouldn’t think it. We had a very strong value system where we said everybody working in the club had to teach about two classes a week. So I definitely did my legs, bums and tums, my ab and core sessions, my body pump sessions, and everything else in between. Was I the best instructor? No. But I did love teaching spinning. That was really where I found my forte.

SSR: Yeah. Looking back now, you’re like, “Oh.” Okay. After Holmes Place, where did you go, and what did you want to do? Why did you want to leave? What other opportunity were you looking for?

EB: Well, that was quite a journey. It was an eight year journey with Holmes Place. I actually went from working on the sales floor, as we call it, duty management sales, to actually becoming the area director for Europe eight years later. That’s the reason why I think that Holmes Place was a very formative time for me because the senior management there actually looked to bringing on young people that were hungry, dynamic. Gave them a lot of responsibility and developed them. I think that was really a formative time. It doesn’t happen so much now, which is a real shame for young people coming into any industry. But if you were good enough, you were rewarded. If you were rewarded, you kept on being rewarded.

In about two or three years in London, the chance came up to be what we call the general manager of an expansion club in Switzerland. So in the mid ’90s, I moved to Switzerland to set up and take over a big club in Zurich. We started a club from scratch. We were sort of dropped into Zurich with a lot of, as you say … Chutzpah is probably the word you’d say in America. Energy, and ideas, a bit of greatness. Went in there and learned a lot of lessons about launching a club in a different market, because I had a German background and had, let’s call it, some German skills that had to improve dramatically when I got there.

From there, I did the clubs in Switzerland for a number of years, and then took over our expansion in Germany. We were expanding into Berlin, into Hamburg, into Cologne, Düsseldorf. Oversaw that expansion. So that eight years was really quite formative. It was quite quick. It was very, very dynamic. That was a really interesting time for me in my career, and one that I still rely on heavily. When I see a lot of my peers in the industry, within wellness, when we get together in a fitness environment, there’s always somebody who’s come from Holmes Place, which is quite a good example of the impact that that company had on fitness within Europe many years ago.

SSR: What was one of the key takeaways you took from there?

EB: I think the key takeaway for me was about giving young people a chance. There’s a lot of benefit from giving young people a chance in the business, and allowing them to fail. We were allowed to fail. I failed miserably on a number of different things that we did, but we gave people a lot of responsibility. I wouldn’t say it was sink or swim, but in many cases it was, and a lot of people swam. I think if you took people from a sporting background or a competitive background and put them in an environment where they can compete, you’re going to create a great business. The dynamics of that business was very fun. It was very work hard, play hard. It was also fitness hard, in terms of we all were working out. We were all fit. We were all dynamic. We were all engaged. We loved selling. We loved members. We loved engaging with people. I think that’s probably the lesson is that a lot of young people coming into industry should be given more responsibility. And allow them to fail. Whether that’s in education, whether that’s in the workplace, or [inaudible 00:08:40] going to be, only through failure do you actually create more success in the longterm.

Banyan Tree Alula; photo courtesy of Accor

SSR: Yeah. Was there one failure that stuck with you?

EB: I wouldn’t say one failure, but I mean there was one particularly challenging period when we went into Germany. We were launching some clubs in Berlin. For example, we happened to launch a club at the same time as when the Euro came into the market. That led to quite a significant panic within the German economy, shall we say, because they all decided that everything was much more expensive, stopped spending money. We launched a very, very big health club at that time. That was quite nervous and quite nervy. I wouldn’t say it was failure, but it was certainly a learning curve in terms of that. You were given, again, given a lot of responsibility. I think that that’s really where you learn to have grit, to have resilience. Only through actually experiencing that and experiencing challenges like that can you understand that they can be overcome, but also you learn lessons from them, you know?

SSR: Yeah, for sure. What made you want to move on from there? Because it seems like it was such a great experience.

EB: That’s a good question. I think that … Well, I’ll give you the answer, why did I get into the hotel business? I think it’s probably three reasons. The number one was, actually, in Berlin, I had an experience at a Four Seasons hotel, which was just around the corner for my health club. I didn’t usually stay in the Four Seasons, but my CEO was coming into town. He decided he wanted to stay at the Four Seasons, took me along with him. Very simply put, during that stay, I encountered an exceptional level of service. I come from a health guard background, and therefore service was an important part of what we did, but I’d never experienced it like this. There was some sort of ghostly, strange things about people using my name in strange places. When I arrived, they knew my name. I was like, “I don’t know this … How does this happen?” It was a really strange experience for me. So I decided to call up the hotel and ask the GM if I could come in and have a chat, talk about how he does this. Being the Four Seasons and the values that they have, he said, “Yes, of course you can come in.” We had coffee and about an hours conversation together. I was really taken in by this whole world of luxury hotels. Particularly that hotel, and particularly the Four Seasons, which, even to this day, is a hotel brand that I have a lot of respect for.

At the same time, with the wellness side of things, what we were seeing within the health club industry was this sort of expansion, particularly within Central Europe. Not just the fitness and the aerobics and the Lycra and the luminous headbands, but people in Germany doing veganism. Vegetarianism was pretty popular. The use of bathing and sauna culture was coming into our clubs. We’d have some spas and were doing things like shiatsu, which I became a … started doing shiatsu massage to relieve stress and different things. So I was like, “That’s interesting. That’s the next, let’s call it, the next dynamic, the next balloon that was going to rise up through the industry.”

I think, thirdly, I had the idea of travel and wanting to go traveling. So those three things combined I think led to my interest in getting into the hospitality business and the hotel business per se. Even though the health club business was hospitality, I wanted to then go and travel. I felt that wellness and wellbeing was going to be a significant boom industry or a rising industry. I wanted to be part of that rise. Thirdly, I wanted to experience and deliver service at an ultra luxury level. That’s really what I think took my interest.

SSR: Yeah, that’s amazing. What was your first entree into the hospitality industry?

EB: Well, I had a year off, which I was quite fortunate to do, so I did a bit of skiing and a bit of traveling when I was 30. Really quite fortunate to do that. I had about a year off when I was 30. Then my first hotel was the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, which was back in the early 2000s. I think 2003. I had been reproached to go over there and lead the spa, wellbeing and retail piece of the business. Dubai was not the Dubai it is now. Dubai was at the beginning of its cycle of boom. So the Burj Al Arab was naturally the statement hotel. For those that don’t know, it’s the seven-star … or want to be called a seven-star sail-like hotel that’s on every postcard, on every picture you see in Dubai even to this day.

I joined the Burj Al Arab with a very unique and very experienced team of hoteliers all around the world, but particularly from the ultra-luxury segment from London, from New York, from different places, led by a very well-known GM called Luc Delafosse, who’d run the Ritz for seven to eight years prior to that. And then lastly did the Crillon in Paris. These are exceptional names within hotels. Was part of the EXCOM team for this, let’s call it, no holds barred of luxury property in Dubai, where naturally Dubai was making a big statement about what its intentions were going to be. The Burj Al Arab was the absolute pinnacle of that statement. I moved there in ’03. Spent about three years working there. It was a very, very steep learning curve indeed.

SSR: What was it like? Because that was really when everything was taking off there, too, especially with that property.

EB: Yeah, I mean, I’ll give you an example, which is probably one that I still tell people. When I arrived there, I had this beautiful spa on the 17th floor of the Burj. I had a really quite an amazing sort of J. R. Ewing, that’s going to age me by that statement, but J. R. Ewing corner office of glass looking down over the Arabian Sea and Gulf. When I arrived there, there was no Palm. There was this boat sitting around dropping big rocks into the ground and putting all the foundational work in. 18 months later, the Palm was there, and there was houses going onto the Palm. So it gives you a bit of an indication of the energy and the dynamism of that environment at that time. When I lived on the other side of Dubai, you had this sort of, my area, desert. And then you had the Jumeirah Beach area, which is now DIFC and the downtown. All those different districts that just weren’t there. So really, it was a little bit pioneering.

I think from a hotel perspective, working in an environment whereby creating guest satisfaction on a daily basis, but also, having guests coming in with a very, very high expectation of what that experience was going to be, it was a challenge every day. I heard a great quote from somebody who said, “If you get out of bed in the morning and don’t want to meet a guest, you shouldn’t be in the hotel business.” That was really an environment whereby you had to be on the floor meeting guests, engaging with guests daily, every single minute of the day. It was not one of those ones where you sort of sat down and were not around guests. It was all about being in the environment of guests, meeting guests, engaging with people and guests, having a twice-a-week GM cocktail, having tuxedos to wear at nighttime for your duty management shift. It was a very interesting period.

It was the usual long hours, six days a week, 14 hour days, which is the old school way of doing hotelier. I think from that it was a great place to learn those skills, and be around people who had worked at amazing hotels like in Monaco, in Paris, at the Berkeley, at Dorchester, at The Plaza. All these great names. They were the people that I was on the EXCOM team with. I learned a lot from them. The camaraderie within hotel environments like that is very, very strong, but the dynamic and the wish to exceed expectations of guests was really the main draw. It’s addictive, you know?

Fairmont Doha Qatar hotel

Fairmont Doha with architecture by Dar-Al-Handasah; photo courtesy of Accor

SSR: Yeah. No, it seems almost like a masterclass in one hotel with all those people.

EB: Yeah. It was a masterclass. Look, I think many people have an indication or opinion about the Burj. It’s a bit like Marmite, either you love it or you don’t, right? It’s got a very particular design style and iconography. But at that time, and I think continued, but at that time, it really was a place where a lot of great senior, I would say, old school hotel people were. Learning from them and working with them in terms of what it means to create that type of service environment was a really great foundation for me. It was definitely a big learning curve. I was a very, say, wide, still pretty young person coming into that. But I loved it. I really did enjoy it. I loved meeting guests, whether they were VIPs or people coming for their anniversary or people who had saved up for that two night stay in that experience. I loved trying to create magical moments for them. I think that’s really what a great hotel team should be doing is just creating those magic moments on a daily basis.

SSR: I think also having the ability to do that, and to think outside the box a little bit of what that means.

EB: Yeah, we were absolutely empowered to create experiences. If you talk about the Ritz Carlton Gold Standard where they have the ideal of three or 4,000 euro that every employee can use to create a magic moment or a guest experience with people, we certainly had that. Maybe times 10 in some cases, when it came to that time. We were able to, I think, really provide a very, let’s call it, luxurious and opulent experience for our guests and people coming into that period. We also a lot of senior people and VIPs and sports stars coming in for the golf, for the tennis, for different things. So it was a very, very interesting time in the growth spurt of what Dubai is. Dubai still holds a lot of those values now, but at that time it was still quite a special place to go to. And it was quite a bit off the beaten track for people to go to. But it was one way you could really create a very strong luxury experience for people. That came through the empowerment and through the no holds barred desire to create great moments and great memories.

SSR: What made you decide to leave there and go onto to something else?

EB: In the corner of the office, I could see the Madinat Jumeirah being built. The Madinat Jumeirah was the fourth phase of the development for Jumeirah on the beach. We had a really big spa being built. I was a little bit jealous. I think this brand new spa was coming up. It was like 20 treatment rooms and 10,000 square meters. It was being run by a group called Six Senses. They were the brand who were doing it. So I’d look out the window and I’d see the Six Senses being built. I was like, “It’d be interesting to work for a brand where spa and wellbeing was really at the center of what they did.” Six Senses, even at that time, this is back in the mid 2000s, wellness and spa … which was not a word then, wellness, let’s called it spa and pampering for want of a better word, was really at the center of what they did. They were about wellness and they were about sustainability.

I was fortunate then to bump into a couple of old Holmes Place colleagues who are now working for Six Sense. I said, “Look, I’d be really keen to take part in this. I think it’d be an interesting place for me to work.” After a period, I was offered a role to move with them, to open a big location for them in Turkey, in a place called Bodrum. I think that that was really the appeal was to join a company and join a hotel group where they place wellness, spa, and fitness really central to what they wanted to deliver. It was important in a Burj Al Arab, but it was nowhere near as important as it was with Six Senses. Therefore, for my career, I felt that was an important place to be. A chance to have a bit more ownership through a project that I did in Bodrum. Yeah.

SSR: Six Senses is kind of on the forefront where they actually put spa and sustainability into the same conversation.

EB: Yeah, I think that, let’s call it, a number of things that Six Sense did amazingly well and very early on, that’s probably testament to people like Sonu Shivdasani, who was the original owner, and Bernhard Bohnenberger, who was the original CEO, was this idea, firstly, of barefoot luxury. So the idea of this stilt house, 35 villa over water thing was very unusual in the Maldives. In fact, there was no hotel industry in the Maldives. It was beginning to come. But places like Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili, you really set that benchmark, where you’re using cable winders as tables. You take your shoes away from your guests and say, “No shoes, no news,” and you go onto this Maldivan Island. They were really at the forefront of that, firstly.

Secondly, they place sustainability right at the core. What we call CSR or ESG to this day was really a very important part of the vision from Sonu and from Bernhard, and so on. That was absolutely critical to the value system, within Six Senses, in the mid 2000s. But they understood the power of wellness and wellbeing. They understood the emotional connection it could create with the guests and with a consumer. They put spa treatment experiences, teaching people about different modalities from around the world, from Thailand, from Ayurvedic, from TCM, really into that sort of package and program. That was very early on, for sure. I think they’re absolutely foundational in terms of that within hospitality. That’s led to where they are today, which is in an incredible position. But I think if you still look to those values, they’d still be exactly the same. It’s holding them in fantastic stead for their growth cycle now.

SSR: I know with Holmes you were in fitness and more workout realm, but did this kind of spark your love now for wellness and trying to take that on? Because then you went on to other wellness opportunities, and obviously where you are today. Did that kind of helped drive where you wanted to see your career continue, or was it more organic?

EB: Well, exercise and movement was always, for me, is always a big part. We can’t be well without great movement, and great nutrition, and great sleep. That hasn’t changed for about three … well, since dawn of time, right? Yeah, get those three things right and you’re going to be well. But what it did was it did expose me to various modalities of interest from acupuncture, to Moxibustion, to meditative practice, to veganism, to whatever it would be. Also, the beauty and power of great treatments and great experiences. I’m very fortunate to work in a spa business. I do like a spa experience. I can definitely say that. So yeah, we’re fortunate to learn and experience that within Six Senses.

I think that the reason why I was able to be successful there was actually the foundation of Holmes Place. Again, because the industry was not particularly commercial. One of the challenges still to this day of wellness or spa within the hotel context is the idea it’s an amenity. It’s some sort of add-on. Actually it should be … It’s a business. It’s a commercial business that needs to be successful and measured and managed in the same way that any other business would be managed. I think that my commercial, let’s call it, sales and KPI and P&L management approach that I’d learned at Holmes Place stood me in good stead when I came into the wellness industry, which wasn’t talking about those things very much. It was more talking about different things. The financial outcome was maybe not as important as it should have been.

That helped me, I would say, with a number of other people, bring a more financial rigor to that environment in order to create more success, but also, at the same, time talk to hotel GMs and senior directors and people and say, “Hey, this is important. This is driving guest experience. It’s driving profitability, but in a different way. It’s the aspiration of wellbeing that’s driving people to your resort, your location, and that’s why it’s an important piece. Even though P&L wise, it might not seem that way.” That was always the conversation that we were having. I think that’s one of the reasons why I was able to develop further within that group, to lead on a regional level, to get under the ops role in Asia, was because of the commercial foundation I had, which some of my colleagues within the wellness industry hadn’t had.

SSR: Right. All right. Okay. You move on from Six Senses. And then you had a consulting … or you were owner’s rep for a bit, right?

EB: Yeah, I did another interesting and challenging experience, which was an incredible experience, actually, I worked for an owner in the south of France. I was on the owner asset side. We were developing some incredible luxury projects in the south of France. Living out on sea, just downtown from Hotel du Cap. It was an amazing 15 months. And then the Titanic of layman happened back in 2008, and with that went a lot of development. In development, you learn a very clear thing that … it’s a very clear cutoff. When the money runs out, then it’s just like lights out, “Okay, thank you very much. See you in a couple of years.” So that came to a bit of an abrupt stop, but then I went and got into consultancy. Actually, I went to Egypt and worked there for a while. And then moved into the consultancy side of the business living in Asia.

Raffles London at the OWO spa

The spa at the Raffles London at the OWO; rendering courtesy of Accor

SSR: Tell us how then you ended up at GOCO Hospitality in Bangkok.

EB: Yes. It was about 2010, 2011. I’d known Ingo on and off for a couple of years. I’d interviewed with him to join Mandarin Oriental. Decided to go into the Six Senses job instead, at that time. We always sort of stayed in contact a little bit. We then actually met again during my time in the south of France. It’s a long story why, but we were looking to bring Nikki Beach to the south of France, and Ingo was part of that universe. That’s where we rekindled our relationship. So when he started the brand that originally [inaudible 00:26:43], and then GOCO down in Bangkok, had the opportunity to go and join him. Working in a pure consultative role. Basically, spa and wellbeing consultancy for brands, for owners, for individual site projects. Not just the spa, also wellness resorts, meditation locations, master planning for different things.

It was really, again, another big step in my career because we were a bit of a startup, therefore we were all pitching in and working in different things. Again, given more responsibility. We’re with owners pitching, flying around, doing all the things that consultants do. And access and, let’s call it, exposure to a really broad variety of brands and experiences. So working with people at MGM, with Wynn, with Ritz Carltons, with Faena over in Miami on consultative basis. You were exposed to many different cultures, many different experiences. Many different ideas of new concepts, new ideas. We were always thinking about being innovative within the wellness space. Also, exposed to owners and what owners needed from their developments and real estate and mixed use, all those different things … the buzzwords that we hear now and understand.

That was also in interesting territory. A lot of work in India. A lot of work in the Middle East. A lot of work in China. They were our three main regions. For me, coming from Europe and coming from the Middle East, and then going down to Asia and then now working in those different markets, it exposed me to different characters, different individuals, different ways of doing business, different ways of needing to serve the needs of ownership. Again, I think that combination of that has allowed me to move into my role with Accor, with confidence [inaudible 00:28:26] should I say better word.

SSR: To your point, if you can eat well, sleep well, feel well, you’re just better in general. So why hasn’t it been more integrated into travel? Is that what you’ve seen as the biggest change over the last, call it, five, 10 years, that it’s now becoming more of a business, more of a holistic approach versus just having a spa or just having a gym?

EB: Yeah, I think that’s probably the first thing. It’s about, really, the broadening of wellness and wellbeing into the entire guest experience. From room design through the food and beverage delivery and the idea of plant-based food and more complex dietary elements. Much more sophisticated spa product in terms of us bringing in medical and tech and recovery items into that much stronger fitness areas and elements within hotel context. I think, though, that the fundamental change in dynamic is probably driven by our consumers, about what they expect from a holiday. 15 years ago or 20 years ago, it would be what I call fly and flop. You’d get five great books, lie on a lounger, burn yourself if you’re English, certainly burn yourself to a crisp, and maybe drink excessively. That was pretty much what your holiday was, and then you went back home and started work. You weren’t being bombarded with emails. You weren’t expected to do any work while you’re away, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That’s changed.

We live in, I think, a much faster pace world than we did previously. We’re constantly being connected and constantly on. When we go away on a holiday, on a break for that two weeks, and particularly for you, Stacey, for the US, when you’ve got that 10 magical days a year to go away, you want to maximize every minute of that break. That also is about maximizing your recovery from your life. So it’s, “I’m going to do the workout twice a day. I’m going to do that yoga class. I’m definitely going to do that facial. I want to go explore, go and see the local area, and so on.” But the idea of wellness becomes really important to you during a break because you want to really recover to go back and start your normal life again refreshed, right?

That’s what a holiday’s now become. The wellness delivery within that becomes not only much more attractive, it’s the aspiration of wellbeing for a consumer, for a guest to draw you to a resort, to a location, but also the push factor, which is, “I need to get better. I need to feel well. I need to do all the things I can’t do when I’m at home managing my life, my highly stressful life.” So this push and pull of wellness is probably a very interesting dynamic that’s now being understood in a much better way by developers, by owners, and also, by hotel companies, about how powerful it is on putting heads on beds, right?

I think there’s that. Secondly, there’s nothing more experiential than a wellbeing experience. You can really surprise and delight your guests in a much stronger way. I think, also, financially, from an ROI perspective, we now clearly realize that a wellness consumer spends more money. On average spend 55 or 60% more than a standard leisure traveler. It’s a very attractive group of people to have coming into your resorts and into your locations.

So using wellness and wellbeing, and making it central to your offering, particularly on resort basis, let’s look at things like Aman, Six Senses, our own group like Fairmont, Raffles, and so on, we realize that wellness is a fantastic profit driver. It might not be a profit center … well, it is a profit center, but it’s a real profit driver. It does put heads on beds, and it does leverage people to come to your location. The question hotel people should ask themselves is less about the room profit and room revenue, and much more about why you reserved and booked that location. That’s really what drives people to spend money and put a head in the bed. I think wellness business is a massive part in doing that.

Raffles London at the OWO

The pool at the Raffles London at the OWO; rendering courtesy of Accor

SSR: Yeah. You joined Accor four years ago, what were you brought on to do? What have been some of the initiatives? I mean, Accor is a massive hotel company, so how are you infusing wellbeing, and in your role, helping to drive this profit driver, as you said?

EB: Well, I came on board and replaced one of my colleagues. Andrew Gibson had been with the Fairmont Group for a while. So we’ve always had people in a central wellbeing role, which is quite unusual. Some of the bigger companies had it, some have not. Some have had it for a while, and then not had it. But Accor consistently had somebody driving wellness and wellbeing, within the group, from the spa and fitness perspective. So it always was there. They understood the importance of it.

I think that the reason I was probably brought on board was to continue that work that had been done, and to broaden that. I think in the first 18 months, the overarching goal for myself and our team was, “Let’s make wellness a company imperative.” What that meant was let’s educate people about the power of wellness and wellbeing, and how important it is within the hotel business. That manifested through a variety of different initiatives, internal, external, press, PR, white papers, and so on.

Secondly, at that time, we had 18 brands. As you know from Accor, we’ve been pretty acquisition heavy over the last decade in terms of what we’ve done. So a lot more brands coming on board. But we had brands at the Fairmont, and Fairmont has had an incredible DNA of wellness and wellbeing all throughout its history. It starts off in … Alpinism in the Rockies, in Banff, and in Whistler. They always have big spas and wellbeing, the Fairmont Fit program, Fairmont Fitness. Really, what we wanted to do is make sure that every one of our brands had a defined wellness and wellbeing strategy. So we created that platform to create that. Implemented things like our Power Fitness program within Pullman, or strengthen the Vitality program within Swiss Hotel, boosted our Fairmont program, looked at our Emotional Wellbeing program at Raffle. Each of the brands, at that time, eight out of 12 of our luxury brands had wellness or wellbeing as one of its core pillars of its DNA. That was unique.

I look across from our competitors, yes, there’s some incredible credible examples out there, but I don’t think anyone really had that amount of wellbeing in every single brand from a luxury perspective, because the brand leadership understood that wellbeing was vitally important to consumers and they bought into it. I was very fortunate to be part of the brand and marketing team at the very faucet, the beginning of when you create brands and execute things. That was very fortunate for me to be able to then work with the teams, work with my own teams to really bring in wellness into those different remits. I think that was the primary reason.

I think, thirdly, my experience of working within consultancy and design and development was also key. So we could actually work with our design team, our development team, our owners to realize more profitability and more future proofing in our design process to make sure that what we’re building now … As you know, Stacy, you’re building a hotel, you’re involved in the project, it comes out six and a half years time. So, you really have to think a long-term and long way ahead with your creative team, with your architects, with the designers, “What does wellness look like in six years?” Not, “What will look like now?” Otherwise you’ll be dated. I think my experience of doing that within GOCO was one of the reasons why they wanted to bring me on board.

SSR: Your day-to-day, it must be very interesting, right? You’re touching so many different things and brands. I mean, no two days are probably the same.

EB: No, it’s a mixed bag. It’s a lot of travel. Probably a little bit too much travel. But I think that the creative process, being in a room with a group of talented architects, designers, and owners does need to take place face-to-face. I find being creative online, on Teams, on Zoom, it doesn’t really resonate for me. I think maybe speak to a number of creative people. By the way, I am a supporter of creative people, not a creative person. But that’s a different story. But you need to be in a room. There’s still the need for that workshop, that mentality. So a lot of travel.

A lot of work with my design colleagues who have been exceptional in embracing wellness and educating themselves about how to create spaces. So design programming, area planning, markups for plans, SD plans. At the same time, a lot of work with the brand team. Supporting the brands on their development of their wellness practices. Just trying to be a central resource, really. I view our team and myself as a consultative resource internally that can bounce and move around to different projects and locations, and add value. That’s really what we want to try to do. Value to our brands, value to our company, but most importantly, value to our owners. That they’ve got a trusted wellness voice in the company that allows them to have confidence. That when they’re talking about wellbeing to Accor, we’re talking to people who’ve got great competency and great experience.

SSR: What’s one thing you think that designers should remember or realize when coming into design a wellness space? Are there some misconceptions, some things that-

EB: There’s probably three things I would say. The first thing I would say is the importance of transition. Okay? Now, let me try to reframe that. “What is a wellness experience? What’s a spa experience?” The spa experience for many architects and designs is being in the treatment room. A lot of attention’s paid to designing the treatment room where, fundamentally, you have your face laying down in a hole for 55 to 60 minutes. From an architect and design point of view, is it really where you put your money and your spend? I would question that and say no, it would not be where I’d put my money and my spend. What is a spa experience? A spa experience is all the things you do around the treatment experience. Transition, which is moving from point A to point B, is very often overlooked. I’m talking about corridor spaces, landscaping, softscaping, visual art, decoration, lighting, soundscape, right? That’s where you put the money. That’s where you put the time and effort. It might be a corridor to you, but it’s a five minute experience for our consumers, which can be exceptionally boring. It should be exceptionally experiential, number one.

I think number two is the ideas of mood. I talked about art and decoration. I think art and decoration, and decorative approach and mood setting is more important in wellness than it even is in food and beverage. If you look at the food and beverage design, they get that right. It’s a key part of a modern design experience. I think too often within our design process, we overlook that. The art and decoration in the journey is really, really key and fundamental.

I think that the third area is that you shouldn’t be afraid of having people come together and create more community within spa. I think spa and wellbeing has been thought about as being individual practice previously. Lots of treatment rooms. People being quiet and everything else. It’s not like that anymore. I think that wellness now is a much more social, interactive, and dynamic experience. When we’re looking at our experiences, we’re looking at much more ways we can create community and create social interaction, either through bathing, through treatment, through exercise, through fitness. That’s what I think wellbeing is.

The last point I would say, this is my drum beating moment for the design community within hotel design, is we need to do much better at hotel fitness. I say that as I come from a fitness background. But if you look at the classical hotel gym, it is not the best. Let’s be honest. Compared to incredible spaces like Barry’s Bootcamp or SoulCycle or Equinox or other great clubs, you look at those clubs from a design perspective and you look at a hotel gym, you’re like, “What’s happened to you?” So again, concentration on the design process for the fitness areas, I think is really low hanging fruit, and one that we’re taking very seriously within Accor. Because your consumer is working out in these incredible spaces in New York, in LA, at HEIMAT, at whatever it’s going to be, and they go to the hotel gym and it’s basically a bank of treadmills looking out the window. That’s not the exercise experience. We can do a lot better there.

SSR: Is there one or two exciting initiatives that you’re doing at the various brands that you’re excited about, proud of, can’t wait to see, or you think is pushing the envelope?

EB: All the brands are special. Make sure the branding team that are listening, they hear that very clearly from the beginning. We did a project called Power Fit for our Pullman brand, which is essentially turning the fitness experience within the hotel into a boutique fitness experience from design, from equipment, from flooring, from lighting, and so on, to really animate fitness and emulate what you would see in the high street at home. I’m very proud of that piece of work because fitness within the hotel context is going to get more and more important. The younger consumer coming in as guest is exercising regularly. They’re all members of clubs. They want to see that. So Power Fit was one that I’m particularly pleased about.

I think, secondly, we’re working on an incredible project within Fairmont, within Lake Louise, which will be coming online soon, it’s a social bathing concept. The social bathing elements coming in more and more into our projects. So we have things like Fairmont in Hanoi. Lake Louise we mentioned before. But the idea of urban and resort bathing is a particular passion of mine. It’s a passion because it’s fun. I do love doing it myself. It’s the idea of sauna culture, bathing Onsen and so on.

Second reason why it’s interesting for a hotel group is because it’s universal. It’s a universal wellness language. Every culture has some form of bathing within it. Whether it’s going to be Roman baths in England, or it’s going to be sauna culture in the Nordics, or Banya in the Nordic areas, or it’s going to be Jimbaran and Onsen bathing in Japan. Tying into that is great. Also, from a design perspective, it’s an amazing thing to do indoor and outdoor experiences, softscape, hardscape. You can really do something fun from an architectural perspective. So we’re doing a lot of push into that. I’m excited about that piece of design work that we’re working on.

SSR: That’s great. What’s the process like to come up with these ideas? Is it a need you’re … How do you, I guess, differentiate between the different brands? Is it just a need that you’re seeing? Is it results of surveys? You don’t have to share all your secrets, but what’s the process like to define which brand gets what and why?

EB: Yeah, that’s a good question. We’re not scared or I’m not scared of having standardization to a certain degree because it allows you to be exceptional, if that makes any sense. If you get the foundational piece, you can then do the innovative piece on top. It’s hard to be innovative if you’ve got no standardization. I know many people hate the word standardization and get scared about it, but they shouldn’t be.

We standardized our approach to what we call our six pillars of wellness, which is essentially the building blocks from nutrition, movement, design, et cetera, et cetera. They sit across all of our brands, the six pillars of wellbeing. But what we do is we turn the volume up or down on those different pillars in order to make them specific to each brand. Let’s say from the Fairmont brand, spa and fitness and nutrition is really, really important. So the volume is turned up very, very high on that development and that piece. But let’s say for the Raffles piece, it’s much more about the holistic design, the immersive design, and the mindfulness piece, right?

For a premium brand, like Pullman, for example, we’re more into the digital piece and exercise piece. Think about the notes. Notes of music haven’t changed. There’s only so many notes of music, but there’s thousands and thousands of songs out there. So you can play with those differences. That’s the approach we take within Accor. Naturally, consumer research, guest sentiment, what’s happening in our marketplace, but most importantly, what’s right for our ownership from a design and development point of view. Really right-sizing the size and scale of your spa and wellbeing business in the hotel. Historically, there’s been a lot of big spas being built. I think we’re much more about right-sizing what we’re trying to do, to make it the right investment from an owner’s perspective, but also right for us. Big is not always best, you know?

SSR: How do you vet what are the right things to start implementing into the spa, I guess?

EB: We’re much more about what I call fundamentals not fad. It’s very easy in our industry to be caught up in the fad, in the new. I get a lot of people asking me, “What’s new? What’s happening?” I say, “Well, why don’t you ask me what’s good? Let’s have a conversation about what works rather than what’s new. New is not always best.” Wellbeing has been around for thousands of years, and the fundamentals of it haven’t changed. You go back to Ayurvedic practice and talk about doshas and food and yoga and mindfulness and movement, et cetera, it’s all there. There’s nothing absolutely new about this whatsoever, right?

So it’s about sticking to those fundamentals that really touch the heart and spirit of our guests. Movement, nutrition, great spa experience, and so on, are universal, and they’re also beloved. Now, things will evolve and change. For example, the resurgence of social bathing is definitely an area that’s got longevity, but we need to make sure we’re making the right picks. It’s about things that are going to be around for a long time. Bathing’s been around for a long time, therefore I’m confident it’s going to be around for a lot more longer, if that makes any sense.

I think the area we’re embracing quite strongly within our developments is what I call recovery and medical tech, which I think is definitely going to be a major impact on our business. So the ideas of Infralight, LED, compression therapy, all the things that are coming out of the sporting realm. It’s come from elite sport, it’s now washing into your normal life. Compression therapy was used by LeBron James to recover from a game. Now it’s being used by a mom to recover from raising three kids. That’s okay. It’s going to be around for a while. So embracing those things that we believe have got longevity and are based on fundamental physiological fact. That’s really what I think you do. If you can understand it in a couple of sentences, then it works for me. If you need to take a couple of paragraphs to explain what it does, then you’ve lost me. So that’s pretty much how we come to some decisions about that.

Some trial and error. A lot of piloting, We’re not going to be first out the door. I don’t think any hotel company will be first out the door when it comes to this stuff. But we keep a very, very close eye on what’s happening within the retail landscape, within the food and beverage landscape, within the consumer landscape, and then look to take the bigger waves. That’s really what we want to try and do. At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to our ownership, to make sure we’re making the right bets.

Raffles London at the OWO spa treatment room

The spa at the Raffles London at the OWO; rendering courtesy of Accor

SSR: Has there been one project of late that’s been … I know you talked about a couple of them, but has there been one that’s been eye-opening or most challenging, or something that you took away from … with your time at Accor?

EB: I wouldn’t say most challenging, but one that I’m really … I’m excited about all the ones coming out. Again, this is teamwork. I’m a small cog in a very, very big machine of experts and creative people. I have a very small role to play in the creation of hotel, just before I get carried away with the I and the me. The Old War Office, Raffles in London, is going to be, I think, the most exceptional opening in the luxury hotel realm this year, if not for the next few years. You’re talking about a building that’s got an incredible history dating back to the Second … before the Second World War, but obviously with Churchill being based there, it’s his war office from that time. An incredible investment from the Hinduja family into this incredible central London location.

We have the Raffles brand making its entry into the UK. From my selfish wellness perspective, we’ve got two and a half thousand square meters of incredible urban wellness where, I think, we as a team have been able to now encapsulate what we’re trying to do with wellbeing, particularly within the ultra-luxury area, which is high net worth membership, fantastic fitness experience, vegan-based and plant-based food opportunities, movement studios, Galin coming in … this beautiful, classical LVMH brand, Galin coming in to run the spa, to bring that sort of luxury back into spa, which has maybe been lost along the way. I like pampering, by the way. So something like Galin coming in is really this beautiful, historical, efficacy treatment experience all combining into one house.

I think that’s really an exciting opening for us, which will be coming online in the autumn of this year. An incredible team of people have made that happen. I started working on that project on the first day that I arrived to Accor nearly five years ago. It’s an example of you need to have patience within the hotel design world because you don’t see everything coming online for quite a long time. That’s going to be, I think, a really exciting opening for us as a company, for me as a wellness professional, but also, a great number of people that have worked on that, that I’m very proud to be a small part of.

SSR: Do you practice wellness in your own life? Do you still play sports? Is it something that you’ve adapted, as well, to your personal life?

EB: Well, as we say, a cobbler’s shoes has the most holes in, so I do take part in wellness and wellbeing. Certainly, I need to exercise a little bit more. But yeah, I mean, I have certain practices that I work on. I need to work on some dietary elements right now. As I get a bit older, my metabolism’s slowing down dramatically, which is something I’m just trying to deal with at the moment. But certainly like to move. Do I play sport? Do what I need to do? No. I’m probably watching a lot more sport than I probably did when I played. But no, I think that wellness and wellbeing is a significant part of my working life. It’s also a significant part of my home life. I’m very fortunate to be working in industry that I think right now is getting the recognition that it deserves in this sort of post-COVID landscape. It was always a movement before, but the super acceleration of it is leading to some really interesting things that we can all benefit from.

What I’m passionate about, I think, from an Accor perspective, is it’s a really, what I call, democratize wellness, and make it really accessible for everybody within the hotel landscape. If you look at things like our health, the wealth white paper, or the way that we approach wellbeing, it’s not just a one-percenter aspiration or for the ultra luxury. For us within Accor, it’s for everybody. That’s an exciting place to be on a professional basis.

SSR: Can you tell us one thing that people might not know about you?

EB: you wouldn’t think that I was a person that loved musical theater as a child. But theater and acting was a big part of my school and education, particularly musicals. I did a number of those. That would be a surprising thing that people don’t know about me.

SSR: Which musical did you do that you loved the most?

EB: Oh, we did Bugsy Malone, for example. I did the Joseph Technicolor Dreamcoat. I did a large number of plays. Some of them were written by our acting coach in Germany. There was a more tame version of hair. Without the nudity, I can definitely say. So yeah, lots of different things.

SSR: Has there been a mentor or somebody along the way that’s helped you get to where you are today?

EB: There’s been a number. I think it would be remiss to mention one. At different parts of your life, you’ve got people who come into your life professionally that add value. You take a piece of that value with you all the way along the way. I will mention maybe one person I worked with at Accor for a number of years, which is Chris Cahill, who is our deputy CEO. When I arrived to join Accor, he was running the brand and company. I have to say, my engagement with him as a leading luxury professional within hospitality, his career, but also his manner, being a Canadian, he was exceptionally polite, exceptionally punctual, exceptionally well presented. Always had time for everybody. I found that to be very refreshing from somebody who was supporting and being part of the Accor group at such a senior level. I sat next to him in the office. He wore a shirt and tie every day to work, and therefore I felt obliged to do the same. I think we were the only ones who did that on our entire floor. He created a very strong impression, but there’s been a number of mentors along the way. I mentioned about Luc Delafosse before. Obviously people like Sonu and Bernhard at Six Senses, Ingo at GOCO, and Andrew at Six Senses. So really to one. But Chris was somebody within the Accor group … I mean, obviously Sébastien Bazin, our CEO, is incredibly dynamic and inspirational as well. I sat next to Chris. It’s a bit like being when you’re the sous-chef and you don’t touch the knife for two years. That was a little bit what it was like being next to Chris within Accor.

SSR: Amazing. How do you constantly stay inspired? What inspires you? You’re traveling all the time. When you go to a different city, are you exploring it? Do you have that time?

EB: It’s a good question. I felt really selfish about travel because I got to a point where I lost the wanderlust for a period of time. I was just like, you go into a place, you stay in your hotel, you do the club sandwich, you leave again, “Oh. Hey, it’s GM, China. Lovely.” That has to change. That had to change. About five years ago, I made a conscious effort to try and add on a day or two days to great places where I went, to get out there and explore them. Reboot the wanderlust. Because in our industry you could lose that, and you shouldn’t. It’s an incredible opportunity we have to see the world.

That inspiration comes from reading, from movies. I’m a huge film buff. I love to read. I love music. For example, that’s more my other inspiration. But what inspires me work-wise and creative-wise, probably the food and beverage industry. There’s a lot of similarity between great spa and great restaurants. The service [inaudible 00:56:43], which is the same. Design principles are pretty similar. The KPIs are quite similar. You’ve got a kitchen crew and you’ve got a front of house crew, which is quite similar to spa. I find that world really inspiring from a design perspective, and also from a service perspective. I was very fortunate to be at the 50 Best in Valencia this year, with the chance to engage with a large number of leading chefs. That was inspirational. These are highly creative, dynamic, loud, fun people who are passionate every day about delivering exceptional food. That’s across the entire industry. Not just at that level but across the industry.

I always found that my tribe in the hotel world was the food and beverage guys because I liked their spirit of creativity. And I also love food and wine. So it was a payoff on either side. But for me, for inspiration for spa, I really look to FnB, what’s happening in FnB, because the dynamic is very similar. I think if you’re a great designer of restaurants, you’d be a really great designer of spa. I’d love to work with some people coming from that world.

Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo - Panama City view

The Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo – Panama City; photo courtesy of Accor

SSR: Amazing. Are you looking at food now in spas, too, on your own, in terms of what you have on your plate?

EB: Yeah, I think the biggest push you’re going to see within hospitality is going to be on the plant-based and veganism and dietary requirements for our guests and consumers coming in. There’s three drivers for that. One is sustainability, right? Because food waste, 40% of all food, produce is thrown away. The hotel business is naturally a big element of that. So from a sustainability point of view, we’re going to get better. Accor’s making significant steps on food waste, in order to reduce it, to minimize it.

Secondly, I think that plant-based dietary requirements, also from a consumer’s perspective, from a health perspective, is going to certainly come center. I think the hotels and the hotel business needs to do a lot better with that. We recognize that. We’re making improvements towards that to meet consumer demand. But also, plant-based has got a major sustainable impact as well. So that’s going to be, I think, a major conversation piece within hotel. If you really want to touch the wellbeing of a guest, let food be thy medicine. That’s really where it’s at. So the nutritional piece for me is going to be really where you can really impact wellbeing.

We go back to the three things, it’s movement, therefore the movement piece in a hotel needs to be the best. It’s nutrition, that needs to be the best. Then finally, it’s sleep. We’re in the sleep industry. I think they’re the three areas where, if you want to be in the wellbeing business, that’s what you’re talking about within the hotel business.

SSR: With your role, do you touch the sleep in the various hotels? Is that a conversation you’re having or is that on another-

EB: No, very much. We are in a business where I think that we can make dramatic improvements using technology and design to enhance and improve sleep. Sleep tech is now a significant part of people’s daily thought process, whether it’s going to be Oura Rings or Whoop, or your Apple Watch measuring your sleep cycle. How we design hotel rooms from simple things like blackout curtains, hypoallergenic carpets and materials, removing all the ambient light from all the machines we put into the rooms, et cetera, et cetera, combined with EMF cutoff switches and so on will become center and front to the sleep experience in hotels.

We’ve done that previously to me joining Accor. The team worked on a thing called Vitality Room for our Swiss hotel brand where they optimize the sleep experience and the wellness experience in the room. My wonderful colleagues in the design team led by Federico and Jeanette from Raffles are creating an incredible immersive experience for a Raffles brand, where sleep is center stage to that room dynamic. The room design is definitely going to change to really put wellbeing in the core of that. Again, I’m very fortunate to work in a group where my design colleagues have recognized that and have been implementing programs to improve that.

The good thing is this tech’s going to get cheaper, so it’ll definitely seep into mid-scale and eco hotels. Again, it’s about luxury. What happens at luxury will then come into all of our different brands as the elements get more accepted, get cheaper. That’s really important. But those three pieces for us, from a broader hotel context, is really where you can be impacting people’s wellbeing. I think people will be demanding it more, you know? If you go to a hotel where you can eat nutritiously, plant-based and vegan-based, have an amazing movement experience and fitness experience, and have the best night’s sleep of your life, I think you’d be generating some significant ADR from that hotel.

SSR: Yeah, a hundred percent. I love how you said that it’s going to start … what happens in luxury is going to come down. I think there’s also even just lessons learned that you can adapt across … Like you said, not standardization, but almost like reimagining what you do in luxury for the other tiers to make sure it’s accessible for all.

EB: I mean, isn’t that the most amazing thing? I’m not a design expert, Stacey, but what we’re seeing with our consumers is, and what we’re seeing within the brands at Accor, things like ibis Styles are incredible, their lifestyle division. It’s more where the design elements, the food and beverage elements are really taken to a new level, because our consumers have got a much more defined eye for what design is. Every TV show in America is about building a house or making a cottage or designing a home. Everyone’s got their own design aesthetic. They didn’t have that 15 years ago. That really keeps hotels on their toes. It means that if you’re going into an eco experience or a mid-scale experience or a lifestyle experience, the design aesthetic becomes really, really important, if not vital, to whether people want to book there or stay there. They’re looking online, looking at the images saying, “Can I place myself in that environment?”

I know the qualities who are working in our PME brands, how much effort they take to optimize the design of a hotel within a certain cost per key. That’s really, actually … I think that’s the fun part for me. You’ve got a very set challenge of a cost and a very demanding consumer expectation, how do you meet that expectation with the financial demands that you’ve got? Sometimes within luxury and ultra luxury, you can also get carried away. I don’t want to get in trouble with my work colleagues here by saying that. Where the budget’s a little bit more unlimited, it’s great to pick great materials. When you’ve got a fixed budget and a fixed income and a fixed room, that’s where I think the magic can happen. I think that’s really interesting.

Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel & Residences guestroom

Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel & Residences, a collaboration between Stonehill Taylor and Rockwell Group; photo courtesy of Accor

SSR: Yeah. We talk about it a lot. Good design doesn’t have to be expensive anymore, which has been a big shift over the past 10, 15 years, just in terms of the breadth of products and new ideas that have entered into our space.

EB: It also comes into … again, I’m getting a little bit off piece here, into my skillset, but where do you put the money in a hotel? Where’s the value? Sébastien Bazin, our CEO, has talked very clearly about building hotels with community. That’s a very different design process than building hotels with hotel guests. The lobby experience becomes more important, access to restaurants, direct access into our wellbeing spaces, more community, more dynamism, coworking elements coming in. I think it’s a really interesting time within hotel design, where the realization that the hotel’s role plays in community, and how that can really turn into profitability. Also, leveraging ADR because people want to stay in exciting places. If you go back, this is not me casting through history, but who was the person that maybe started that process? That’s probably Ian Schrager, right? Going back to the Paramount Hotel in New York, the rooms were about 12 square meters. He put black and white tiles on the wall to make them look bigger. It wasn’t about the room, it was all about the lobby, right?

I think that that’s fascinating, that somebody who came out of the nightclub, the Studio 54 business realized that. That’s been a major impact on how we think and how our consumers think about stuff. Now you’re seeing it, really, in the mainstream, so hats off to that incredible character.

SSR: Yeah. It’s cool, too, is how can wellness be part of that community? Which must be a lot of what you guys are looking at too.

EB: I think so. Not to give too much away, but look at successful models that are bringing in community and bringing in people into their spaces. Let’s say Soho House, which is a really respected model of business, where they’ve created a design model that has restaurant, co-working, fitness, movements, bar, socializing spaces, bar, and so on. Oh, let’s put some rooms on top of that space. That’s interesting. I think that’s what people are realizing is that that’s the process. Whereas we’ve been very much obsessed about the number of keys and number of rooms, I think the conversation now that’s happening is, “How do we create community? How do we create social spaces? How do we draw people into our spas?”

The conversation with me now and with our teams about spa and wellbeing is, “Yes, the guest is important, but it needs to standalone, particularly in an urban location, as a day spa and membership experience.” If we create that … That’s designed in a much different way. Spa and wellbeing previously was, “Oh, where can we jam it in? Where can we fit it in? Let’s look at … Car Park B2 is where the fitness is going to go.” That’s not the case anymore. Our owners are very clearly saying, “Hey, let’s give this place prominence. Let’s give it square meters, particularly in an urban location, to draw in local community.” Because a membership-driven model, all the way back to beginning of my career is a very interesting and sustainable business model. There’s nothing more experiential in fitness and exercise when it comes to it. So when we talk about experiential bars, experiential lobby, coworking, now we’re talking about experiential fitness. There’s nothing more experiential than the membership club.

SSR: We always end this podcast with the question that is the title of the podcast, which is, what has been your greatest lesson or lessons learned along the way?

EB: I going to say something very strange, but it’s a quote that came from one of my old bosses called Cassius Sinington, who says, “You catch more flies in life with honey.” I think that means is that you really need to be magnanimous and be nice. If you’re nice, then you go a long way. There’s a place for being tough, but being accepting and being magnanimous, I think, goes a long way, particularly in this business. Because one thing I also learned is you always meet twice in luxury hospitality. It’s a very, very small world. People remember you by that. So yeah, you catch small flies with honey.

SSR: Love it. Love it, love it. Well, thank you so much for your time today. It was such an enlightening conversation. Really enjoyed getting to know your background, so thanks for taking the time today.

EB: Thanks, Stacy. Appreciate that. Thanks, everyone listening.