Social media is still a relevant part because people are looking to people to show them how. A great example is when we first talked about how you had to test to come back into the United States. We sent an employee down, she showed everybody live on Facebook what it was like to be tested. No one knew this far back in January. That video had the most likes and views we have ever had because people could see, okay, this isn’t that bad and then they were willing to come down to be able to do that.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Wiseman, Senior Vice President & General Manager at Apple Leisure Group (ALG) at the 2021 Ascend Conference in Cancún, Mexico. Scott is a lifelong hospitality executive whose career has spanned both hotel and travel sectors of the industry. He is responsible for oversight of six of Apple Leisure Group’s brands.Scott is also an executive committee board member (Vice Chairman) for the United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA) as well as an in-demand public speaker on matters of the industry.
As senior vice president and general manager, how would you describe the perfect vacation experience?
I think you have to be surrounded by people that you want to travel with. That’s for sure. For me, that’s obviously family, sometimes friends. I enjoy experiencing the local area as well as sometimes relaxing, but it takes me a while personally to unwind and so I find that I need to keep busy. I can barely do half a day on the beach. Then I need to go to the pool. Then I need to move. For me, as long as everyone’s all around, people are free to do what they want, but then we get back together as a family, we share meals, and we do excursions together. We maximize our time together, keeping busy.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the travel industry to help them thrive and not burn out?
Perspective has been the biggest thing. Talking to a lot of the advisors, people went through a lot of things that were more than just business during the pandemic and I think it helped frame everyone’s perspective about what’s important. So while everyone’s still working twice as hard potentially for the same amount of money, I think that they framed what’s really important and I think people are making better decisions for themselves. Take your time. Don’t forget to breathe. Lean on others. I think more than ever, I’ve seen this comradery of people, helping people and allowing people to feel that there’s an outlet for them if they’re getting stressed. I think it’s all about managing that stress. Putting everything into perspective right now is really key.
None of us achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you’re grateful for, who helped you to get you to get where you are today?
I love that question. I often will reference certain bosses or even colleagues that I’ve had in the past that taught me something and that I’m grateful for. Some did it purposely and some did it by accident, but there’s always been something beneficial.
But honestly, probably the biggest gratitude I have is for ALG and the company I’m with now. This is an unbelievable team and we rally around each other with empathy, and with passion. We worked hard. I mean, Ray and Jacki are amazing leaders. I think that’s what I appreciate the most. The company allowed us to behave like that and just jump in and solve problems. We didn’t waste time on red tape. We listened to what the advisors needed. I’m lucky I have a CEO who talks a lot about culture and people first. I feel really fortunate and I’m grateful for that opportunity.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations you’re excited about in the travel industry, especially with Hyatt Hotels?
There probably isn’t much to talk about on the Hyatt side because nothing’s actually officially happened, but I’m looking forward to positive things. Innovation, I think it’s interesting to see large American-based reputable brands that are getting more and more into the all-inclusive space. They see this value in the leisure business and particularly all-inclusive. So we’re excited about that because our company was founded on that as an anchor and now it’s becoming much larger and mainstream within.
We have a dedicated place on our agent portal where they can get everything they need from CDC regulations, to country regulations, to hotel guidelines. I think you have to spend time to make sure that the traveler is educated more today than any other day. Travelers want to make sure that they have all the information and you can’t do that without innovation. It’s too much to manage, to do it manually. So I think there’s a lot of solutions out there today that help the traveler leave and feel really confident in what to expect and how they’re going to make their experience the best that they could.
So how do you envision this might disrupt the status quo?
I think it’s going to create more loyalty to the travel advisor. We’ve seen and heard in the last year that travelers are lacking confidence because the online travel companies are not equipped to support the level of need that a traveler has. So I think more and more people are gaining confidence and are understanding the value of a travel advisor. Everyone’s really leaning in and saying, I need an expert and I need someone that’s qualified and someone that’s got my back who is going to help me travel. I think that’s going to be a big disruption that travel advisors are going to continue to gain steam.
As you know, COVID-19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share five examples about how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting within the next five years?
I think safety, sanitation protocols are going to be a big one. It’s not just going to stop with this year. I think people are going to expect a certain level of cleanliness and care. The same thing for the employees. We have to remember that a lot of these places had to take care of their employees and make sure they were safe.
Two, the labor situation has been really difficult. People have been experiencing it in their local communities, even just restaurants being able to hire people. So we have this weird gap trying to be able to fulfill the workforce that we need to be able to put things together.
Technology continues to play an important role. Particularly when you talk about last minute, schedule changes, relying on airlines to make sure that they’ve got the right lift to get into a certain area. if you’re not getting instant updates to what’s happening and alternatives and being able to do that, that’s going to create a problem.
Leisure travel will continue to come back faster than business travel, which is a whole new dynamic. Because when you’re not traveling for business, that’s a steady stream and catering to just the leisure traveler who tends to be a little bit less educated. Traveling is going to require a lot of patience from everyone in the business.
Of course, social media is still a relevant part because people are looking to people to show them how. A great example is when we first talked about how you had to test to come back into the United States. We sent an employee down, she showed everybody live on Facebook what it was like to be tested. No one knew this far back in January. That video had the most likes and views we have ever had because people could see, okay, this isn’t that bad and then they were willing to come down to be able to do that.
Can you share with our readers, how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It’s a great question. Honestly, I chose travel as a profession for a reason; because it moved me. When I was 15 years old my parents took me to Acapolco and that was amazing. I saw how we as a family had an amazing experience. I felt something that I knew meant something. I’ve been fortunate through working in the hotel business to travel to many countries and worked with people from all over the world and I gained an unbelievable respect for different cultures and the impact of leaving a small footprint. But of course that’s not enough. You have to really be supporting those communities where tourism is their lifeblood.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.