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Episode art #70 with Shawn Jereb
Episode art #70 with Shawn Jereb
The Hotel Moment podcast — episode 70

Approachable luxury without losing touch with guests

In this week’s episode of the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen Stephens, Revinate CRO, and Shawn Jereb, Senior VP of Revenue Management & Distribution at Montage International, take a step back and evaluate how to promote premier, first-rate experiences that keep guests feeling connected to the brand. Jereb offers ways any hotelier can take action — whether that’s accommodating and supporting preferences, or applying technology to facilitate welcoming and well-rounded stays.

Tune in and find out how to personalize the guest journey, foster lasting relationships, and leave guests coming back again and again.

Red, yellow, and blue lines to indicate soundwaves.
Headshot of Karen Stephens

Meet your host

Karen Stephens is Revinate’s Chief Marketing Officer and runs the sales, marketing, and customer success teams. She has more than 20 years of experience in the industry alone.

On the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen speaks with leaders to draw out their experiences and insights. She is also a Francophile and Prof K — a coach, a mentor, a guide to the people who work with her.

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Transcript

Intro/Outro – 00:00:02: Welcome to the Hotel Moment podcast, presented by Revinate, the podcast where we talk to leaders in the hospitality industry. If you’re looking for trends, perspectives, and stories from leaders in travel and hospitality, you’re in the right place.

Karen – 00:00:20: Hello everyone and welcome to the Hotel Moment podcast. I am your host, Karen Stephens, the Chief Revenue Officer of Revinate. And today I am delighted to be joined by Shawn Jereb, who is the Senior Vice President of Revenue Management for Montage International. Welcome Shawn.

Shawn – 00:00:36: Good morning, Karen. Thank you.

Karen – 00:00:38: It is so good to have you here. So, Montage is a Revinate customer, and Shawn was actually one of our panelists at our conference this year called Navigate. So, I’m very happy to have you here again to share kind of the second round of insights. But before we get started, I have five questions that I ask all of my guests. So, I’m gonna start with that, and then we will get onto the juicy topic today, which is all about maximizing revenue as a luxury brand. So, if you’ll indulge me, Shawn, when did you start working in the industry and do you remember your first day on the job?

Shawn – 00:01:12: We started working in the industry in the manger and first checked in Jesus. No, I’m just kidding. It’s been a very long time. It’s, I’m coming up on 30 years, which is insane. It feels a little bit like I’ll labor laws. So no, I do not recall virtually my first day. Thank God. I do recall joining the industry. So, I remember being at the back of the Portland Marriott and looking at their job board and had these little cards with all of the jobs. And I remember reading the front desk description, which was customer service and cash handling. And in high school I had worked in a grocery store. So, I was like, I have those skills. And so, I actually decided to apply and that’s sort of how I fell into the hospitality industry.

Karen – 00:01:55: So, you started it at Marriott.

Shawn – 00:01:58: I did, yeah, in the front desk in 1994. So yeah, just to celebrate 30 years.

Karen – 00:02:05: Wow, that is very cool. All right, so over that 30-year career, almost 30-year career, what has been the most uplifting moment so far in your career?

Shawn – 00:02:15: I don’t know if I could pick one, obviously over 30 years. I think the main thing that I find uplifting is really the ability to really grow talent. So, when I see the people that I worked with in my teams, you know, grow and go on to great things, I find that to be really the most rewarding part of the role.

Karen – 00:02:35: Yeah, that’s a great answer. I think especially as you yourself started at the front desk and have kind of risen through the ranks over time. So, I love that answer. Helping people find their footing and grow in their career. Awesome.

Shawn – 00:02:47: It’s amazing. You work that long, you know, you start with people at a very junior level and then years later, you see them in senior roles and you think, you know, wow, it was part of that journey and help them to get there. And I think that is truly uplifting.

Karen – 00:03:00: Is. All right, so this one is going to be given the brand that you work for, the brands that you work for with Montage International. This question is going to be hard to answer, I’m sure. However, from a personal perspective, what is your most striking experience so far in terms of a holiday, a hotel stay, or food experience that comes to mind?

Shawn – 00:03:20: Yeah, super easy. So, I’ve done tons of world travel, been super fortunate, and I think by far my best experience was with Amon. So, I’m going to name a competitive brand, I think which is fine, in India. So, I think, you know, I’d always wanted to go to India. I went to about, I think five or six years ago, and I was just blown away after sort of, again, traveling all over the place. It was just such a different experience, and they just did such an amazing job culturally and it was just a mind-blowing experience. So, I would definitely say Amon in India was that box.

Karen – 00:03:58: All right, that’s going on my bucket list. That sounds incredible.

Shawn – 00:04:03: Definitely recommend it. Incredible.

Karen – 00:04:05: Okay, so this one is, I think it’s always fun again, given the brands you’ve worked out. So, have you met any celebrities that you can speak of while you were in the field?

Shawn – 00:04:17: Yes, I mean, tons of them, particularly I think, you know, earlier in my career when I worked for Morgans Hotel Group, which is obviously known for being very entertainment focused. And when I was the director of revenue at Mondrian in gosh, like 2001, so the early 2000s, that was I think the peak of Mondrian at that time on the Sunset Strip. And so, celebrity was a very normal part of the day-to-day there. So, we were always getting various celebrities through the door and working with them directly from revenue management, which is funny just because they were always looking for particular suites or they needed security and for the nanny and it was always a very involved booking. And so, I tended to get involved with those, which was a lot of fun. Less now because of course I’m not on property or in the office like back, so less now, but obviously tons of celebrity and I think the most famous of montage is Justin Bieber. He’s a huge fan of the brand. He got married in one of our hotels and you know that was widely publicized. So, I think that was probably one of our biggest.

Karen – 00:05:16: That’s so fun. That’s great. Okay, so final question for the warmup. Who are the women at work that you’ve been most inspired by?

Shawn – 00:05:23: I love this question. When I was thinking about this question, I was like, this is such a cool question because it really made me reflect through the 30 years of women and there were several standouts in that which was fun to reflect on. They were standouts in different ways which I also thought was cool. I had one of Fox Women offices, like this is what women do, but it was amazing because they all sort of helped my career in a different way. And I think some of the early standouts was back in the 90s, my very first revenue management job. I was at the Renaissance in Seattle. And I had a woman general manager, Claudia Danks, and she was a force we reckoned with. She was extremely tall. She was extremely forward. And I remember she would sit in her office and she would smoke cigarettes and drink white Russians. And she was, it was definitely the nineties. That was still a thing to again, age myself. It was like a dynasty episode, but she would call me to her office. She’d be like, Shawn, come on. And it was like terrified when I was, you know, young and new in the business. It was very terrifying, but you know, she really drove for excellence. And so, she really taught me to like be prepared and come to the office with answers because, you know, she wouldn’t take less. And so that was one of the standups, but there have been so many, I could go on and on and on.

Karen – 00:06:36: She sounds amazing. That’s really cool. Shout out to Claudia.

Shawn – 00:06:43: I know. I do wonder. I’m sure retired and living her best life. Having a white Russian.

Karen – 00:06:48: Hopefully she is. That sounds great. Cool. All right. So, let’s talk a little bit about Montage International. I mean, what a beautiful collection of residences, of hotels. Can you just give us kind of the high level on the brand and brands within the brand and why it’s so successful as a luxury play?

Shawn – 00:07:06: I’m super lucky. I’ve been extremely fortunate with really great brands in my career and Montage International is definitely one of the tops. So, a high-end luxury brand, Montage was started 20 years ago. This is actually our 20th anniversary. Montage has been a beach and it just an amazing collection of hotels, as you mentioned. And really the idea behind it was, I think Alan Fuerstman, my founder, really saw a niche in the luxury space, which was to have a more of a, I guess, casual luxury or approachable luxury versus the sort of ladies and gentlemen serving tea sort of luxury stuffy. So, we’re really about welcoming everybody and being comfortable and really enjoying yourself and being able to relax and have a good time, but have that high quality product and high-quality service. And then really as Montage grew, it was obvious that there was space also for an additional brand. So, we launched the Pendry brand, which was really more of a lifestyle brand. They’d kill me for saying that because we tried to stay away from that fuzzy words but I guess it is a good way to describe the brand as it’s more in urban markets and really that, again, that focus on high service, but maybe in an environment that is more forward as it relates to aesthetic.

Karen – 00:08:19: Right. And yeah, actually you mentioned your CEO and I have a quote from him, which I think is really interesting. So, it’s Alan Fuerstman who’s saying, my take on luxury is that it was too pretentious, too formal. And the next generation of luxury travelers was looking for something more humble in the form of style, service, and culture. So, I think you talked a little bit about that, but humble luxury. So, it’s a very high level of service, but without all of the pretense, as you mentioned.

Shawn – 00:08:45: He said it better than I did, as he should. Yeah, I tried to capture it, but that sounds a lot better. But yeah, exactly. I think approachable luxury was really the goal, which I think we’ve achieved. You don’t walk into our hotels and think, oh, I need to be dressed a certain way, or I need to look a certain way. You can just relax and have a good time, but still have that high touch service without all the pretense.

Karen – 00:09:10: Yes, and let’s talk a little bit about, you know, when you have that level of luxury, of guest, of experience, how do you leverage technology so that it appears seamless to the traveler, right? Because I know you don’t use loyalty points. You’re not somebody like, oh, you weren’t a freak. You know, like we’re talking about a whole nother level of guest experience. So how do you leverage technology behind the scenes to ensure that you’re delivering that best experience

Shawn – 00:09:37: That’s a great question. And the answer is it’s extremely difficult. I mean, I think you’ll know being in the technology space, right? We just had so much technology. We have a lot of age technology. We have a lot of technology that doesn’t talk to one another. So, the challenge and the struggle is definitely real. So, it definitely takes a high level of, I think, personal approach. So, you know, it’s really about exceptional staff that are diving into those tools and taking the time to pull out that information to be able to provide that high level of service. I mean, we’re extremely fortunate because we do have a lot of montage loyalists. So, we have a super high repeat guest factor. So, I remember going to the first stand up company and they’re like, it’s so and so 60 a stay or 100 state, like these crazy numbers where people just are so invested in the brand, which is amazing. And so, you know, we get to know them on a very personal level through those interactions because they are loyal to us and they do come back. And so, I think that allows us to learn about them and to create those experiences, which is really what all about.

Karen – 00:10:41: Which is really the key to all of that. Absolutely. So, the next thing I wanted to ask you about was your focus on sustainability. So, you know, people expect this high level of luxury, but we also want to make sure it’s a sustainable environment. So, can you talk about how Montage thinks about that and make sure that the guest is aware of it?

Shawn – 00:11:00: Yeah, absolutely. We’re really at the forefront of that. We’ve won tons of awards. We’ve tried really, really hard. This is a space of passion. Also, one of the difficulties you can imagine, you know, trying to get rid of single-use plastic and how do you grow about that? I think it’s interesting because we haven’t shouted a lot about it. So, we’ve done a lot in this space and we continue to do a lot in this space, but it’s not something put forward as sort of PR-able, I think, as maybe some other companies have done. Alan has said, listen, we want to be super sustainable and we want to obviously respect the planet and do that for ourselves, our families and our guests. But we also don’t want to impose that on the guest. It’s interesting because my understanding is doesn’t really want to see like, oh, there’s a recycling bin and a regular bin and it’s up to the guests to then sort their recyclables into the correct bin. We do all of that behind the scenes. We just collect everything and then behind the scenes we do the separation. And so again, it’s not really putting the guests in the position of like, it’s up to you to make your state sustainable. We try to curate that for them and do everything we can to behind the scenes make sustainability an important part of what we do without, I guess, putting it in the forefront.

 Karen – 00:12:13: Right. Which is a wonderful concept. I think people understand when they get there that that is something that’s happening behind the scenes and it’s not something they have to be concerned with, which is very cool.

Shawn – 00:12:22: I think they see us doing it, right? Like they’re obviously well-traveled. They obviously understand what’s happening in the industry, what’s happening in the world. And they see the plastic straws disappearing. They see the single-use plastics disappearing. They see the small bottles disappearing. But it’s not something we necessarily, again, make a fuss about. It’s just things that we are doing constantly to try to do our part to be sustainable and to fulfill that important responsibility we all have.

Karen – 00:12:51: Absolutely. And you’re expanding into beautiful areas. I see that you’re doing a lot of expansion coming up. Mexico is one that’s high on the list. Can you talk a little bit in your role and as you think about rolling out into these markets and you know, what is the path for expansion with montage in the next couple of years?

Shawn – 00:13:11: I mean, it continues to be huge, right? So, over the pandemic, we doubled in size, which was crazy. And I think we will continue to do so. It’s been a little bit slowed down by just what’s happening in the world, right? So, supply chain issues and construction issues and labor issues, those things have certainly all slowed down our progression in terms of what we had planned to open. So, things are a little bit behind. So, I think what we’ll see is a little lull now as we sort of catch up and then sort of another explosion in sort of 25 through 27, where all of those properties that were really supposed to be coming to fruition now or in the next couple of years have been pushed out maybe a year or two. We continue to do openings. We have one this week, which is very exciting. So, we’re opening Pendry Newport Beach this week. I’m actually working on our next opening already. So, I’m doing the build now for Go Live in January on sale for Pendry Natirar, which is in the countryside in New Jersey, just outside of New York, a beautiful country estate. So excited about that. And then we have a lot of expansion internationally, as you mentioned, so, you know, we’ve announced Mexico, Punta Mita, and we also have quite a bit going on in the Caribbean. So, lots of expansions still to come.

 Karen – 00:14:20: And I’m just curious personally, how often do you get to go out to these properties as they open? Do you get to be on site? How much are you traveling? This is my question because these are good places to travel.

Shawn – 00:14:30: Too much is the answer. I think this week, I leave on Thursday and I think this is week five on the road. So, you know, it’s pretty exhausting, but it’s great. You know, it’s great to be part of these growing brands. And so, a lot of time on the road, a lot of time in the properties, not necessarily during the openings. You know, in revenue management, I’m in the sort of in the forefront, right? So right now, I’m really working, doing a lot of the heavy lifting. I came back just last week from Pendry Natirar, I’m doing the build now. For on sale in January and the hotel won’t open until sort of April, May time by the time that opens, I’ll be able to the next. I think operation is really that boots on the ground. Like this weekend, entering Newport. I’m not really even thinking about it cause I did that sort of eight, nine months ago. So, I’m sort of ahead of the game as it relates to the opening. So, a lot of my heavy lifting is early on. And by the time we open, you know, I really need to, our operations teams to pull that off and then. Thank you too. And go on and enjoy.

Karen – 00:15:24: Yeah, you’re all about the pre-sell, getting it all set up and ready to go to market.

Shawn – 00:15:28: Yes, a lot of time in openings.

Karen – 00:15:31: Yeah, so how do you think about that when you’re opening in a new market? I’m just curious from a revenue management perspective, because often your hotels are kind of in a class of their own in some ways. So, what are you looking at to kind of set those rates and think about how you’re going to present the hotel?

Shawn – 00:15:46: It’s a great question. It’s funny, Tammy, because we’ve literally been talking about this over the past couple of weeks as we look to build out Pendry Natirar, right? Because it’s sort of a class unto itself. And so, trying to understand like, okay, it’s not local that we’re looking at because there’s nothing in the local area that will be a direct competitor. So, it’s really casting a wider net and looking for life products in like areas. So, for example, for Natirar, we’re looking at the entire Eastern Seaboard, country high in luxury and sort of cherry picking those from around the region for those that might be look alike to us, but not necessarily in our backyard.

Karen – 00:16:21: Interesting. And how often, I mean, you mentioned you have such a huge loyal gas base. When you have an opening like that, what’s the mix? Do you see a lot of people coming in that are brand new to the brand or are they coming from other properties and testing out the new waters? And you have an idea.

Shawn – 00:16:39: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think, you know, we’ve been such a Southern California company. So really, you know, West Coast domestic has been our bread and butter. And so, when we opened Montage in a Bluffon on the East coast, I think that was, we were a little bit fish out of water with that, I think initially, cause people just didn’t know the brand. But I think as we’ve grown, we’re getting a lot more of that crossover. We’re getting a lot more new eyes on the brand. We opened a lot of Pendries in key gateway cities like Chicago, New York, DC. And so, you know, that really has boosted, obviously the brand recognition and people have been able to experience that level of service and our products. And so, I think it makes each of that next opening a little bit easier because the recognition has continued to sort of to grow and expand it and cast a wider net. And as we spread out into international, more international guests, we’ve been highly domestic. So, diversifying really that geographical mix, be it domestic or international, has definitely grown as we’ve grown.

Karen – 00:17:36: Right. Okay. So last question. You know, the end of the year is fast approaching coming into 2024. So, I felt them like I can’t believe it. It’s like budget season and crazy. But any cool predictions for 2024 and the revenue management space as you’re looking out? What do you think is going to be kind of the new talking points as we get into the new year?

Shawn – 00:17:58: We continue to come out of the pandemic still, right? So, I think we’re still in a recovery mode in many ways. And it’s interesting to see, I think for the first time, what I’m really experiencing is really divergence in specific products and locations. Meaning in the past, we’ve said like on a macroeconomic basis, this is what’s happening in the United States. But now it’s really come down to product by product, location by location. Each one is recovering in a different way. So, it takes a much more, I think, fine-tuned approach than we’ve historically taken. Because we had a boom in our resorts over the pandemic where people were captive. And so, they sort of poured into our resorts to get away. Now the world has opened up and now we see everybody sort of pouring out of the US into Europe and we haven’t seen that return of international travel yet. And then the cities were sort of closed down and now they’re really reemerging and the reemergence of group business and business transient. So, there’s just so much movement and fine-tuning. I think we’re still in the process of sort of seeing that all come to life. So, in the resorts, we’re really seeing a normalization. So, it’s trying to get back to what I call the new normal. And in the urban markets, we’re still seeing those booms where you’re still seeing big growth. I mean, we still have a lot of new hotels that are ramping. So, I think it’s just all about trying to find that new recovery, getting away from 2019. Obviously, we’re going into five years on now and trying to figure out what is the new normal.

Karen – 00:19:22: Right. Absolutely. And you mentioned resorts. I did want to give a shout out. I know you have a beautiful property on Maui. I’ve had the pleasure of staying myself at, so wanted to give a shout out to that property. I know that they’re not directly in Lahaina. I know a lot of your staff did have housing in Lahaina. So, we want to give a shout out to all of those people, but also encourage people to see this podcast to travel to that destination because it’s everything’s good. It’s beautiful.

Shawn – 00:19:46: Yeah. Yes. West Maui is definitely reopening. We’re trying to encourage people obviously to go and support local tourism. You know, obviously a lot of our associates rely on those jobs and rely on those funds. So, we absolutely look forward to welcoming you back. We are not in Lahaina, we are close and it’s obviously devastating, but I think from the property level, you know, we’re ready to give that aloha spirit.

Karen – 00:20:07: Absolutely. Open for business. And you know, we want to support Maui and the people who live and work there. So amazing. Well, thank you so much, Shawn. This has been wonderful. For our listeners that want to learn more about montage, what’s the URL to visit?

Shawn – 00:20:20: Montage.com

Karen – 00:20:22: Montage.com, you heard it here first. Thank you so much, Shawn, I appreciate it.

Shawn – 00:20:27: Thank you.

Intro/Outro – 00:20:29: Thank you for listening to the Hotel Moment Podcast. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you’re watching on YouTube, please like the video and subscribe for more content. For more information, head to HotelMomentPodcast.com. The Hotel Moment Podcast is presented by Revinate.

 

 

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