Be original. In Today’s copycat world, there’s been a lapse in creativity. Everyone just kind of copy’s what the next guy or next property is doing and then closes their eyes with hopes that it works out. Don’t be afraid of taking your natural homegrown talents and opportunities to the market, enlisting the local community. International guests are looking for cultural experiences to Immerse themselves in. Quince, their thirst with bespoken creations that allow for cultural exchanges, these experiences are rewarding and easier to create than you would think.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lester Scott.

Lester Scott’s hospitality career has span over 25 years and placed him in three continents and seven countries working with luxury brands. His expertise encompasses operations, finance, asset management, development, and investment both at a property and. corporate level. Additionally, he offers a high level of experience opening new luxury properties, repositioning, and transitioning hotels, as well as managing HOA and. condominium associations.

Over the years Lester has continued to polish his craft, developing his identity as a top level, International Luxury Hotelier with a keen eye for building world class service teams. Focused on delivering positive returns on investments through exceptional personalized service to the guest, properties entrusted to his care have been awarded some of the top Industry accolades. Mobile 4 Diamond awards, Forbes 5 Stars awards, LHW awards, Travel & Leisure, Virtouso, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Ctrip, Travel & Leisure Best Spa award, LEEDS awards for best GREEN hotel, ROB & ROB best hotel award.

Today, he continues to carve a distinct path in the industry leading brands and independent hotels to operate at their highest level, both in quality and profitability.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

“Inner City Youth”

Growing up in the inner city of Kansas City, one never thinks of a career path in luxury hotels. As a youth in one of the toughest cities in America, your thoughts are on sports or working on the production line within the automotive industry, which was considered an outstanding job 50 years ago. Still, luxury hospitality was never a thought that crossed one’s mind from where I grew up. But for me, it all started at an early age, while working at my father’s restaurant, sweeping floors, and taking food orders after school or before evening baseball practice. I learned the traits of hard work, delivering a quality product with friendly and consistent service.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? “China, here I come.”

Having worked in 27 different cities and 17 countries, you can imagine that there may be a few stories of interest that I can share. But off the top of my head, I will share being asked to relocate from America to China for a few months to get our China operations running. Reluctantly I agreed, and two weeks later, I was on a plane from Atlanta to China for the first time. At this point in my career, I was pretty senior within the Hospitality Industry and well respected within our company. So, of course, it goes without saying that I was expecting to be warmly received once on the ground in China. Man was I wrong. My 14-hour flight landed me in Shanghai mid-evening on a wet, cold January day. The Shanghai airport was the largest airport I had ever seen then. The number of people moving through the airport was dizzying; all the signs for baggage/transportation and where to go next were all written in Mandarin, and no one spoke a word of English, and of course, I spoke not one word of Mandarin at that time. Still to this day, I can recall the overwhelming feeling of just trying to figure out the location of the baggage claim. Once lucky enough to collect my five suite cases, my next job was to somehow navigate the 200 miles from the Shanghai airport to the city of Nanjing.

I know this may sound like an easy enough task to the readers. Still, this was quite the undertaking when you don’t speak or read the local language. So, there I was, standing in the taxi line. There must have been 300 people awaiting a taxi. Still, Surprisingly it took less than 10 minutes before I found myself standing at the front of the line, panic-stricken as I was trying my best to communicate with the taxi dispatcher about hiring a taxi to drive me the 200 miles to Nanjing, of course, everything said between the two of us was quickly lost in translation, the funny thing that I remember about this time was that the conversation with the taxi dispatcher took longer than standing in the taxi line with 300 people. Thank goodness there just happened to be a returning Chinese Nationalist Exchange Student in the taxi line who stepped forward to assist me. If it wasn’t for him, who knows, I might still be standing in the taxi line to this day. The exchange student was nice enough to escort me from the airport to the train station, where he assisted me in buying a train ticket to travel the 200 miles to Nanjing from Shanghai. And yes, once in Nanjing, I was greeted warmly by the company’s staff members that I would work alongside for the next four years, creating five different hotels within different regions of China, each being rated number one within its respected market segment. Yes, that’s correct; what was to be a couple of months’ assignment turned into four years of living/working in China.

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?

“How Hard Can it be.”

Oh man, the funniest story wasn’t so amusing at the time, but is a story that is fondly recalled today from those that where there, I was assigned to a very high-end super luxury hotel in California, as I remember I was in the club lounge and the server for the day had called off and I was there fumbling my way through the day trying my best to make it to the end of my shift, when this high profile everyday movie personality asked for a glass of rare wine, well I was very young in my career and had never really opened a bottle of wine before, “how hard could it be” I must have struggled with this bottle for the better part of 10 minutes, while this guest was standing waiting, “well, I finally opened the bottle alright” but not in the fashion of which one would generally be accustomed to, somehow in the middle of wrestling with this bottle it managed to slip out of my hands and onto the beautifully polished marble floor of the Club lounge and of course at the feet of this high profile everyday movie personality. “YIKES” Lesson learned from that experience, never do anything for this first time in front of a high-profile movie personality!

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?

“Ladies & Gentlemen, Serving Ladies & Gentlemen”

My second job in the hotel industry was in the housekeeping department at a brand-new hotel opening. I can recall like it was yesterday that all the managers were busy running around all week sharing that everything had to be cleaner and better than before, the chandeliers needed to have each of the cut crystal pieces shined, that the brass railings throughout the property all needed to be polished brighter, that the food quality had to improve, the chefs and kitchen staff all worked for days preparing menus and cooking different food offerings. I tell you that the energy level through the hotel that week was at a fever pitch leading up to the visit of Mr. Horst Schulze, never had I met this Mr. Schulze before. All I knew was that he was coming, and we had all better be ready! Finally the day of his arrival was here, I can recall everyone standing on the front drive, all dressed in their best Italian designer suits and leather laced shoes awaiting Horst’s arrival, the first time I laid eyes on him as he emerged from the car and proceeded towards the lobby of the hotel, I was so in such awe, and it appeared that Mr. Schulze wasn’t really even walking, but rather actually floating. I watched closely as his eyes quickly darted from one item to the next, all as he was shaking hands and greeting everyone with this heavy German accent. The following day at 6am there was an orientation for managers, and this was the first time of hearing him speak, this speech would be the speech that would forever change my life, as during this moment of listing, I knew that I wanted to be in the hospitality business, “Ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.” I ended up working alongside of Mr. Schuzle for the next 20 years, still to this day, we speak a couple of times a month, so amazing to have him still in my life.

Thank you for that. 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?

“Core Competencies”

Our sector of Hospitality is expansive. There’s not one property nor one brand that can be all things to everyone. It’s my thoughts that the core Principles of Hospitality will now be in greater demand than ever before and that the Competencies of * Great Guest Service, * Consistency of Delivery of products and Goods *Clean and well-maintained stays, and personalization of service will have a much higher value of expectation from our Guest. Whether you are delivering these cores in a limited-service offering, a luxury setting, or my case, a lifestyle offering, these fundamentals transcend brands and class offerings of properties, as well as the new tech innovations within the marketplace these days. Our collective focus remains on consistently mastering these core competencies within our properties and blending innovations that make our service professionals’ jobs easier and are well received by the end user. We see our CORES as loyalty drivers for our guests and customers. And at the end of the day, Isn’t the reward of loyalty from our stakeholders what we’re all seeking!

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation, and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

“Tomorrow is Today”

Disruption of the Status Quo in Today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world is now the new status quo! These days, it has become quite the norm to shake up the norm regarding innovations. Companies are releasing better ways, faster ways, and less expensive ways of delivering products and services to their Guest. The Pain Point within our business is the cost associated with ushering in these new tech solutions that allow us to be more efficient. Yesterday it was the handheld ordering systems, and today it’s the opening of Guest room Doors via your mobile Devices, Tomorrow, it’s the E-Butler programs. I think it’s safe to say that the new status quo is Consistency of change itself.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

“Our New Norm”

It was the fall of 2019, and I can recall sharing with my team that there was a pandemic coming and that it would affect everyone worldwide. Still, I remember everyone’s faces all looking at me as though I had perhaps sampled too many rum punch drinks during lunch that day. Fast forward to January / February of 2020, companies and businesses were starting to close, production and operations were slowing down, Hospitality workers worldwide were being laid off as travel had dropped to the lowest demands in my lifetime, Government officials and world health agencies were all scrambling as fast as they could to find Vaccines. During these times of uncomfortable uncertainty, I can recall speaking to several of my high-profile friends from the world of sports and entertainment to gain their thoughts on the virus and the impact that it was having on business globally. To my dismay, many of my friends proclaimed that the Hotel business had died and would never return. Can you believe this is what people were telling and sharing with me? Yes, we all know that all sectors within Hospitality were the first hit and would be the last to recover, but DEAD and never to return! I could only chuckle while I formulated my thoughts for a reply. Before rebutting That the hospitality industry was Resilient, that there’s a natural thrust for MAN to travel, that exploration is part of everyone’s DNA, that people have sought and will continue to seek cultural exchanges and adventures, and that it would be these drivers that would bring the hospitality industry back more vital than ever before, wait and see, I made this statement in the middle of the doom and gloom of COVID19. Fast forward to July 2022, the properties within our collection our all having their best year ever! In conversations with Industry colleagues, they too are Echoing the strength of the travel demand, witnessing higher REVPAR and Occupancy levels than 2019, the last full comparable year to 2022. What properties within our portfolio did: we studied the virus and its tendency to understand better how best to combat it. We placed a higher value on cleanliness, making it our top priority. I mean, we sanitized everything every day all day, we applied a 48-hour wait period before checking a new guest into a room that was Previously occupied, when most hotels were cutting back on room cleaning and maintenance, we were increasing our services to the Guest with well-protected staff members, we were determined to sanitize the virus out of our properties. What we thought we understood at that time was that the once Subconscious would now become the conscious. Before the pandemic, the Guest visiting our hotels subconsciously assumed that their guest room had been thoroughly serviced and cleaned. No longer will this be a subconscious thought. It’s now a front and center expectation of consciousness, as we all now associate cleanliness levels with the risk of being infected by covid. So, get ready to pay those hard-working room attendants more money, as they are the new Go-To Team Members within our industry!

You are a “travel insider .”How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

“Time to unplug”

I think describing the perfect vacation experience depends significantly on the individual. For some people sitting beachside doing very little for their holiday is the ideal escape. In contrast, others may feel that a Safari expedition is their ideal of a holiday well spent. As for me personally, I never really get a chance to completely unplug, nor do I think that I would ever want to, but recharging is essential and something that I do a couple of times a year. As I have had a great pleasure and opportunity of living in 27 different cities and 17 counties, my perfect vacation experience always involves Golf Courses, Cigars, Champagnes, and Spa services in some less populated destinations around the world.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

“Contacting with ourselves”

Within our organization, we are working feverishly on creating a balance of work/play/rest/relaxation for the individuals and families that visit our properties. We know that business demands never stop, so we’ve created quiet zones throughout the property that promote productivity. Relaxation is essential, so our spa services were designed to help our guests ease into a more relaxed island vibe of leaving the day’s stresses behind. Still, we’ve also created an engagement of entertainment that allows the Guest to be a part of the island’s offerings. Coming this fall will be our first Wellness vacation. A week-long journey of life’s pursuits, carefully laying the foundation of liberations, Spiritual wisdom through meditation, feeling love, and doing good. We have partnered with a world-renowned Yoga Guru who specializes in joyous wisdom!

Here is the main question of our interview: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

“The never-ending search for Loyalty “

General managers are increasingly becoming business executives within their companies, cities, and communities within our industry. Long gone are the days of coming to work to assure that the drinks were delivered on time and the check-ins for the day all went smooth. The expectations of the job Today far exceed those primary duties. Today it is expected that you are a business leader, always looking for ways of delivering more revenue to the top line while driving more profit to the EBITDA; the exciting thing is that within our organization, profit is a dashboard indicator and not the final goal of achievement. So, here’s what we focus on and what works for us.

We stopped treating our Guests like a number. Guest are individuals, each requiring tailored experiences through taste, style, and service delivery. Honoring your Guest’s time while at our properties and contributing to them feeling well is each of our jobs. I can recall reading a news article that showed through Research that the average American worker takes less vacation time than a medieval peasant. To put this into some sort of statistic that the readers can understand or perhaps even identify with, there’s a 2017 study that indicated that the average US worker had taken only 54% of their paid time off for the year. So, within our organization, this means that we place a much higher value on our Guest’s time. We deliver products/goods & services promptly, with service professionals focused on each Guest and their enjoyment of our offerings!

Be original. In Today’s copycat world, there’s been a lapse in creativity. Everyone just kind of copy’s what the next guy or next property is doing and then closes their eyes with hopes that it works out. Don’t be afraid of taking your natural homegrown talents and opportunities to the market, enlisting the local community. International guests are looking for cultural experiences to Immerse themselves in. Quince, their thirst with bespoken creations that allow for cultural exchanges, these experiences are rewarding and easier to create than you would think.

As much as love will always trump hate, as light conquers darkness, the creation of excellence within your organizations will always win. Remember this when building your team of professionals, hire as many “A” players as possible, align them to the company’s vision, and then buckle up and hold on for the ride as your guest experiences will skyrocket. It’s so much fun watching all the stakeholders enjoy the creations of a collective team.

Be an accessible as the leader. My management team and I spend less than 50% of your time in the offices. We are all out on the floor, touching each touch point throughout your property, speaking with the Guest learning more about them and what they are seeking during their holiday at your property. As a lifestyle hotel operator, we had to make a shift during the times of the pandemic, as we witnessed that more of our Guests were spending their time working on their laptops. Instead of being locked down in their homes in larger metropolitan cities, they traveled to warmer exotic locations working from their laptops, which shifted us into creating quite-zones that promoted online meetings. These are the things that often missed if you’re locked away in our office answering emails for 8 hours of the day. So, to answer your question, give your Guest/customer what they are asking for without them knowing they are asking for it!

Excellence in problem resolution, championing this throughout your organization. In Life, things will happen as much as we try to prevent them from occurring. The Chef is going over or under cook a meal. The waiter will drop an expensive bottle of wine at the feet of one of your VIP guests. The key to the guest room door isn’t going to work. Some incidents will always occur. It’s just how Life goes. But what makes these incidents a wrong or a right in the guest’s mind is how the service professionals handle them. By empowering your team in Mastering Problem Resolution, these occurrences will soon be viewed as opportunities to create loyalty from your guest!

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

“Lean on those connections.”

My passion is the children of all walks of life. When you’ve spent 30 years in some of the leading hotels in the most desirable locations worldwide, you get to meet and befriend many different people. I’m not afraid to use these connections on behalf of improving a child’s life. There have been countless encounters of this, but please allow me to narrow it down to an Eight-year-old little girl that never walked because of a congenital disability. Can you imagine that her mother, whom I had the opportunity to work alongside, had to physically carry this eight-year-old girl everywhere that they were together. When this came to my attention, I called a well-known top Physician in the greater Miami area that I had befriended years earlier while staying in one of my hotels. Within weeks this eight-year-old girl was receiving treatment at Joe DiMaggio Children’s hospital. She underwent many corrective surgeries. She’s so brave. I’m happy to report that her mother sent me the best birthday gift for my birthday last week. It was a video of her now 11-year-old daughter walking unaided!

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.

“Education through Travel”

My movement would be the gift of travel, making it more assessable for all. Traveling exposes one to different cultures, religions, foods, drinks, languages, costumes, and experiences. The more these gifts are received, one becomes less likely to stereotype his fellow man. Immerse oneself into another man’s views allows you to see the world differently. By doing this, you’ll quickly learn that perhaps your way of doing a certain this or that, isn’t the only way of doing this or that which should create a greater appreciation for your fellow man.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.