Q&A with Peter Mack, Collective Retreats

Collective Retreats is an experiential travel company providing luxury accommodations in remote, undiscovered places. The company strives to reconnect guests with the community, environment and themselves. Through luxury accommodations and distinctive guest experiences, Collective Retreats combines the comfort of luxury guest offerings with the ruggedness of a wilderness adventure and local authenticity. Guests range from couples on a romantic getaway to multigenerational families looking for a unique family reunion, and even solo travelers looking to unplug. According to CEO/founder Peter Mack, each one of the retreats appeals to a different type of traveler with differing cultural interests, yet all of them promise a restful and restorative escape full of nature and fresh air. Hotel Business caught up with Mack for a deeper dive into his company.

It’s all about experience. How does Collective Retreats deliver experiences? At Collective Retreats, our top-of-the-line concierge offers a unique take on service. Following a booking, each guest is then contacted by a dedicated team member who will walk them through their itinerary and help them create a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whether it’s white river rafting on the Colorado River, a horseback ride through the lavender fields, an in-tent massage at sunset, or taking a private boat tour around Manhattan, our team is your local expert and is committed to creating an unforgettable experience.

What are some of the most notable innovations you’ve seen, and how will they impact the luxury travel experience? Experiential travel is still in its early days. Travelers are still learning about this industry and what it means to invest in experiences over material goods. The ability to bring the everyday luxuries that people are accustomed to to the outdoors—and have it all fit as a seamless experience—is quite remarkable. Just to think that someone can wake up in their tent, make a steaming pot of French-press coffee, or that we’re able to create a gourmet, three-course, farm-to-table dinner under the stars before the campfires and s’mores start, really proves that anything is within reach when it comes to the guest experience in combination with the outdoors.

How have guest travel and expectations shifted over the years? What excites you about this? How does this fit with what you have to offer? The rise of experiential travel over the last decade has opened up the eyes of the consumer to look beyond the traditional notions of luxury, like stuffy service staff and formal butlers. Instead, travelers are looking for an immersion into another culture without sacrificing the comfort of luxury accommodations. Luxury camping (or glamping) has expanded the world of travel and hospitality by creating a desire to experience a place with as little barrier as possible. This demand has challenged hoteliers and innovators to think beyond the traditional walls of a hotel and create exciting new ways for guests to experience their surroundings. At Collective Retreats, we’re satisfying the hunger for luxury accommodations and amenities while also satiating desires for a rugged escape into the wild.

The tagline of Collective Retreats is: “Explore extraordinary destinations without sacrificing luxury.” What does this mean to you? To the traveler? In an industry where so many hotels and resorts pride themselves on the grandeur and stateliness of their brick-and-mortar accommodations, Collective Retreats aims to create a more holistic experience in untapped destinations, where guests can truly connect with their surroundings while also having luxury accommodations. Our business model prioritizes a guest’s experience above all while providing the comfort of a five-star hotel: plush beds with 1,500-thread-count linens, rain-style showers, farm-to-table dinners and a full-service concierge.

What makes a destination inspiring? Part of the Collective Retreats experience? There’s a history and personal tale of discovery behind every retreat. It’s important that our retreats are in locations with a robust community and rich history so that our guests embark on a similar journey of adventure. We work very closely with our property partners to ensure we’re able to provide our guests with top-of-the-line service, exciting activities and a stunning landscape that these travelers may not otherwise be able to experience.

Words like authentic, curated, local and connection are hot words right now. Seems like they perfectly describe the Collective experience. How has “camping” redefined the idea of luxury and vice versa? Camping is not a new trend. It is one of the most traditional and original activities for travelers looking to reconnect with nature and strengthen the human connection with others. It has been interesting to see the rise in camping (and glamping) and how these offerings have developed and expanded over time as the industry begins to wonder if camping today would even be considered camping 10 or 20 years ago. Earlier, I mentioned the heightened search for the luxury of an experience or hotel that provided as little barrier between nature and guest as possible. In short, camping has given people the freedom to unplug and focus on what’s in front of them. With the rise in technology, there’s a constant need to be connected to the world and also compare our experiences with those of others. This surge in “luxuries” like social media has redefined what it means to relax—for many, a true luxury experience can be defined as one where we are able to disconnect and put the screen away. Luxury is spending quality, face-to-face time with our friends and family and truly unplugging. It is having the ability to be mindful in your surroundings and being able to experience something new. While previously, perhaps, viewed as opposites, camping and luxury now go hand in hand.

Do you consider your company a lodging industry “disruptor” or more an alternative to the typical hotel experience? A mixture of both. Collective Retreats’ wide range of accommodation offerings definitely provides alternatives to the traditional four-wall rooms in hotels with the Summit Tent, Journey Tent and Outlook Shelter. In addition, the company has disrupted the space by standing by its commitment to ensuring the majority of the attention and revenue is directly invested back into enhancing and improving the guest experience. The company operates using an asset-light business model, which means each destination retreat was created with minimal materials, removing the permanence of brick and mortar to redistribute resources so we can invest more in the overall guest experience.

How did you start out in this industry? What was your journey to becoming founder and CEO? I got my first taste of hospitality when I was working as a dishwasher at a hotel in high school. Oddly enough, that’s how I knew I wanted to be in the industry. I graduated from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, then spent 10 years at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, cultivating brands like Westin, W Hotels and St. Regis, and guiding strategy across marketing, loyalty and customer experience. After that, I joined the up-and-coming brand Tough Mudder to oversee experience design and product, where I got to think more outside of the box to create innovative, unique aspects of the experience. I knew for a very long time that I wanted to build a travel company at the intersection of accommodation and experiences, as I’ve always believed that hotels should be places to connect and explore—rather than just sleep and shower. Collective Retreats was born out of that drive to create a better and more inspiring travel experience.

Tell me a little bit about your team of “experience makers.” Collective Retreats is built up of an incredible team of hotel veterans, inspirational visionaries and creative problem solvers. We’ve found ways to bring guests spacious accommodations fully equipped with electricity, fully functional toilets and rain-style showers in some of the most remote places in the country. Among our executive team, we have years of experience in traditional hospitality and experiential adventures. In addition to our varied leadership team, each of our team members at our locations has a strong relationship with the local community and constantly has the pulse on the local events and happenings. HB

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