Service needs to exceed their expectations in each interaction, whether this is at the front desk, in the corridor as the housekeeper passes a guest by or at the bar or restaurant. It needs to be what they expect and more.
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 Omar Vega.
A hospitality executive with over 17 years of experience, Omar Vega worked his way up the ranks at Ritz Carlton and was most recently a regional Corporate Director of Food and Beverage services for FirstService Residential. Omar attended the Inter Americana University of Puerto Rico and successfully completed Omni’s Executive in Development program in 2018. He is currently the General Manager at Omni Hotel at the Atlanta Battery.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I literally fell in love with this industry when I started at a hotel where I was hired as a barback. I loved the interaction with people on a daily basis and getting to know the different areas of the industry. Each hotel is truly a mini city within a city.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I think this is the most odd and interesting in a way that it allowed me to see that anything in this industry is possible. I had a guest (was club member at a hotel that I worked at) want to celebrate his friend’s anniversary. He was trying to convince him to become a member, but his friend did not see the value in it. This friend of his was staying at another hotel not ours. The club member asked what we could do to blow them away. I walked from behind the bar, got a bottle of our brand labeled champagne, an ice bucket, my manager asked the kitchen to make a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. We had gotten the hotel his friend was staying at along with a room number, I walked with all of this in hand to the hotel they were staying at and asked the front desk personnel to allow me to deliver what I had…the obvious was no at the beginning, but after some serious convincing from my manager, the member and myself we were able to make it happen. He was blown away needless to say.
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?
As a young leader I was in charge of a pool restaurant and over Thanksgiving weekend I sent almost everyone home when it started raining…shortly after the sun came out as did all 1000+ guests to enjoy the pool…needless to say it as a long day. Lesson learned, history tends to repeat itself, read recaps from previous years and most importantly ask. Probably not as funny at the time, but now as I look back, I cannot believe I did that.
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?
I have been very fortunate to have many great leaders in my career and it would be difficult and an injustice to name just one. I want to say that I have taken a piece from each of the leaders I have had in the past and now and have molded that to the leader that I am today.
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?
While I know that most all hotel companies are always working toward improving/innovating their app or website, our hotel specifically is looking at ways to connect and make an impact with our guests. There needs to be a personal connection. Helping create those exceptional memories that will bring them back. Our goal is to make sure that as they leave, they are thinking of when they are coming back.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
I think that one pain point that can be easily missed is that the guest experience can feel cold during their stay. We want to ensure that this does not happen, we’ve done a couple things that are not necessarily something that is innovative but is important and definitely a differentiator as it relate to the guest experience. Whether this is a personalized welcome or a mid-stay call. This also starts with our associates
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?
While a lot of the guidelines we had past have been lifted/relaxed we have as an industry continued to hold the high cleaning standard and are sensitive to those associates and guests that still follow some of those guidelines. It is about ensuring that everyone feels valued and heard.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
My perfect vacation would be anything that has a lot of great restaurants within walking distance, a beach to lounge around all day and being able to completely disconnect from everything, but also connect with my family.
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.
Our hotel is definitely a more experienced based destination. The majority of our transient guests are here to partake in a baseball game and the offerings the surroundings have to offer.
Ok super. 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.
- Allow your team to be genuine — i.e. — let them be themselves.
- Allow them to show their true hospitable spirit.
- Value for what they are getting in all aspects of the experience.
- Service needs to exceed their expectations in each interaction, whether this is at the front desk, in the corridor as the housekeeper passes a guest by or at the bar or restaurant. It needs to be what they expect and more.
- Lastly knowing that we are humans and mistakes will be made, but when that happens we need to be the best at apologizing and making up for the mistake.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think in various ways we / I have done this. One is by simply mentoring the future of this amazing industry, taking the time to get to know them and their goals and work towards establishing a good path for them.
I also think we see a lot in our travels, so trying to leave a place where you have resided better, one example is my family and I will go out during the colder months and had out hot chocolate, blankets and snacks to the homeless / less fortunate. We have done this ever since we left Puerto Rico and has been something that we do everywhere we have lived.
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. 🙂
A movement of seeking to understand… 😊 nothing really comes to mind at the moment that I would say a movement but do think that trying to understand the other side would be of great benefit to all.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/omar-vega-239a97b/ .
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!