Peter Strebel, president of Omni Hotels & Resorts, is a 30-year-plus veteran of the hospitality industry. Here, he talks with Hotel Business about the brand, future plans and what he likes to focus on outside of the industry.
How would you describe Omni’s current portfolio? Our hotels include new convention center and suburban hotels, as well as historic resorts with iconic golf courses and luxury spas. Each of our properties is unique, but one thing that is consistent across the board is the high level of service our associates offer our clients and guests.
What are some of Omni’s strengths and weaknesses? At Omni, we believe one of our greatest strengths is how each of our hotels truly embrace its local community. This means that no two hotels are the same. From celebrating the horse-racing and bourbon culture in Louisville, KY, to the beautiful beaches of Amelia Island, FL, our hotels make you feel more connected to the community.
On the flip side, we’re asset heavy unlike most other hospitality brands, so we aren’t in every major market. Because of this, travelers and meeting planners might not automatically think of Omni Hotels & Resorts.
What’s currently in the company’s development pipeline? We recently broke ground on Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport—a 1,055 room convention center hotel across the street from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. It will have nearly 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Similarly, we’re breaking ground on a 605-room convention center hotel in Oklahoma City. Both of these hotels will open in Q1 2021. We also have projects in Tempe, AZ, and Fort Lauderdale, FL, in the pipeline.
What makes a market attractive for an Omni property? As we look to expand our Convention Center Collection in various markets, we also look at the efforts behind tourism and conventions in that particular market. For example, our newest hotel is Omni Louisville Hotel and the city just made a significant investment into the Kentucky International Convention Center for a renovation.
How do you balance personal and professional life as a C-suite exec? It’s about knowing—and respecting—your priorities. My number-one priority is my wife and our children. My family is my source of happiness. My job as president of Omni Hotels & Resorts is important because I truly love what I do, but knowing my priorities and ensuring I make time for my family and friends helps me balance my professional and personal life.
Why did you get involved in hospitality? I was very fortunate that I was able to travel with my parents and siblings as a child. When we traveled, I always enjoyed staying at hotels. It was fascinating to me. Additionally, my first job was at a seasonal beach resort in the Hamptons; I had the greatest first boss and mentor there, which really solidified my love for this industry.
What is something you wish you could go back and tell your younger self when you first started your career? I would tell myself to always trust my instinct. When I look back at major milestones within my career, my instinct has never led me astray—especially when it comes to my executive team. It’s vital to the success of the company to have the right people in the right role, and when you have that, the organization as a whole can achieve success at the highest level.
How has the industry as a whole evolved? Most hotels today are owned by REITs and are more about asset appreciation versus customer service. For example, having more hotels equates to growth for some companies, but I believe those companies are putting growth over quality.
How do you expect the industry to change? There are so many choices today when you travel. I believe we’ll see more personalization and more brands working to reflect the needs and wants of a specific customer segment. People are also traveling more for leisure these days, so I think we’ll see more growth within that segment as well.
From the development side, what type of challenges has the company faced? New construction is very expensive and that’s definitely a challenge that we face. In addition, a lot of the hotels for sale come with an existing brand. We want to own, manage and brand our hotels, so that can be challenging. But we have a great development team out there looking for the right opportunities.
What are Omni’s plans for 2019? From a development perspective, we will hopefully host one or two more groundbreakings in new markets and potentially announce additional projects. We will continue to reinvest in our current portfolio with renovations at Omni Shoreham Hotel, Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center and Omni Mount Washington, to name a few. And, one of our biggest projects to date is the evolution of Omni Barton Creek, which will reopen in May. We will continue to elevate our culinary and service offerings throughout the portfolio, especially in the group space. In addition, we will continue to give back to our local communities through “Say Goodnight to Hunger.”
What should the industry know about Omni that it may not already? The industry should know that, above all else, the service to our guests and clients is top notch. We often hear that Omni isn’t at the forefront of their minds when booking leisure travel or meetings. However, once those folks do experience Omni, we often hear them say, “I won’t go anywhere else.” Our goal is to generate more brand ambassadors for Omni Hotels & Resorts in 2019. HB