With HD Expo + Conference just around the corner, here’s a preview of some of the industry professionals you’ll hear inspiring insights from during the two-day event at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, August 24th and 25th. Register now!

Thom Geshay
Davidson Hospitality Group

A 33-year company veteran, Davidson Hospitality Group president Thom Geshay has held many positions within the hospitality management group since 1987. His career began as a bellman, and he went on to hold jobs in nearly every segment of the industry—from operations and sales and marketing to real estate development. Today, because the 50-year-old company is “very financially stable,” Geshay points out, the team was able to take a different approach during the pandemic. “We were able to keep all our of resources in place to support the property teams and owners at a time when they needed us most.” It’s paid off, as Davidson has added four properties to its portfolio in the last six months. “The owners, designers, and the Davidson team worked together to curate incredibly unique properties that we are all very proud of,” he says.

Why has Davidson Hospitality Group been so successful over the last 50 years?
We approach everything we do with high character and integrity. We have a passionate and competitive team that doesn’t like to lose. Our core values in business align with the core values in my personal life, so work is an extension of who I am. That makes Davidson feel like home.

A look into the speakeasy-style Cottonwood Room in the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel by DLR Group

How has the company weathered the COVID-19 pandemic?
I don’t fault anyone for cutting overheard and laying off staff. Every company had to do what they needed to survive. But with the on-property teams being down to skeleton staffing, and many public brand companies reducing staff by up to 50 percent, we felt like we needed to keep our team at full force to assess and create new standard operating procedures, to support property staff, and to help our owners navigate the nearly daily updates. Within 30 days of the national shutdown, we had designed customized relaunch plans for each hotel, detailing the steps along the employee and guest journey and how to keep everyone safe.

After three decades in the industry, what have you learned about hospitality?
Be empathetic and honest in your communication with guests. We work in an imperfect world and industry where we rely on our team members to make decisions and execute services on behalf of our guests. With so much human interaction, there are bound to be missteps. That’s okay—it’s how you recover from them that matters.

Hear more from Thom:
HD/ISHP Town Hall: Owners’ Talk Part I
Tuesday, August 24th
8:45–9:30 a.m.
Location: South Pacific Ballroom E

Elide Rathborne
Director of Design
Bond Collective

Bond Collective launched in 2015 ready to conquer the shared workspace market. The COVID-19 pandemic only proved how important that model is as people seek flexibility, convenience, and affordability. The company also stands out thanks to its locations’ sleek interiors, led in part by director of design Elide Rathborne. With 11 outposts, including three in-the-works projects in New York and one in Los Angeles, the Bond Collective is committed to “elevating the coworking experience with refined club-like atmospheres and the amenities of a boutique hotel,” Rathborne says. “We aim to provide our members with a new standard of both service and style.”

How has the pandemic shifted Bond Collective’s model?
The pandemic proved that a hybrid work model works. Our business model hasn’t necessarily changed, but the whole ethos around work has. There is a shift in needing a huge company headquarters, as well as seeing all of your employees all day, every day. People do benefit from working closer to their homes, but not necessarily from home. Being in a shared workspace offers a reset to your environment and provides a comfortable and more focused place to work.

How does Bond Collective differ from other coworking spaces?
Something that sets us apart in the industry is that we intentionally minimally brand our spaces. We want to set the stage for our members to be seen in their best light and thrive. I also like to think our design is a real standout. [Creative director] Thomas Gibbons and I pull inspiration from everywhere: places we have traveled to, favorite old movies, art, textures, or materials. At times, we can find a light fixture or a material and design a location around that.

Bond Collective’s Austin location evokes a laidback Texas feel across its 30,000 square feet

How does design relate to Bond Collective’s philosophy?
We want to change the way people feel about coming to work. We believe space and design can bring joy, confidence, and comfort. We design spaces people want to come to. When you feel comfortable in your space, you are more productive and efficient. I want people to be able to take a walk, look around at their surroundings, and have their eyes caught by a picture or a floral arrangement that gives them a moment of pause and serves as a quick reset to get back to the task at hand. We often plant witty surprises, whether it’s a print of Robert Longo’s Men in the Cities, marble cell phones, or a funny collage—we want to make people smile.

Hear more from Elide:
Creative Fuel: Hybrids and the Hospitality Effect
Tuesday, August 24th
1:30– 2:30 p.m.
Location: HD Park

Eileen Madigan
Senior Vice President of Global Interior Design
Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Since joining Las Vegas Sands Corp. in 2018, Eileen Madigan has been integral to its evolution as the development and operations firm seeks to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences for its guests. While the company is in the process of selling its Las Vegas properties, it’s also looking for opportunities throughout the U.S., including in New York and Dallas, as well as Asia—a market that continues to be extremely successful for the casino and resort giant. Catering to the ultra-luxe customer remains a priority, as does reinventing what gaming is today. “We’ve been known to be very thematic, but moving forward, we want to do more iconic architecture as well as world-renowned interior design,” Madigan points out. That focus, she adds, will be “giving [properties] a sense of culture—of aspirational design.”

What are you currently working on?
In 2018, my first project was the $2.5 billion repositioning of the Cotai Center in Macau. It was an underperforming asset that is about a half a block wide and a half a block long. It had four properties on it: a St. Regis, Conrad, Holiday Inn, and Sheraton, which will be under construction soon. We [converted] the Holiday Inn into the new Londoner Hotel and partnered with David Beckham, who is our brand ambassador, on two floors of suites. We took the other half of the St. Regis and developed that into the Londoner Court, and we also reimagined the other half of the Four Seasons tower into the Plaza and the Grand Suites at the Plaza.

Designed by Gensler, the ornate Crystal Palace atrium welcomes guests to the Londoner Macao

What is the design process like when working on these massive projects?
We contract all of our design out of house, but the process goes extremely fast. We have crazy deadlines. I always call and ask [potential designers], ‘Are you up for a ride because we have six months to design it and [another] six months to build it?’ We partner with people who understand our business. You get what you pay for in many ways. The final implementation shows the level of purposeful, intentional design that our guests are expecting. It’s a team effort.

What does the rest of the year look like for you and Las Vegas Sands Corp.?
We’re doing a 400,000-square-foot gaming space in Macau. The Conrad there will be deflagged and converted to our Londoner brand. Once everything opens back up in Beijing, we look forward to developing there, as well. In Singapore, we are [working on] a fourth new tower to join the Marina Bay Sands’ existing three towers. It will be 57 stories with 600 suites, 10 F&B ventures, a 20,000-person arena, and two floors of gaming.

Hear more from Eileen:
HD/ISHP Town Hall: Owners’ Talk Part II
Wednesday, August 25th
9:45–11:15 a.m.
Location: South Pacific Ballroom E

Teddy Mayer
Vice President of Design + Technical Services
Virgin Hotels

With five properties open in the U.S., Virgin Hotels is rounding out its growing portfolio with projects set to open in New York, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Miami in the next five years. They will join the recently debuted New Orleans property from local firm Logan Killen Interiors, where the brand’s playful style meets a laidback Big Easy vibe, and the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which opened this year in the former Hard Rock Hotel, a collaboration between Rockwell Group, Klai Juba Wald Architecture + Interiors, Studio Collective, Francois Frossard, and Avenue Interior Design, among others. A driving force behind Virgin’s signature style is vice president of design and technical services Teddy Mayer, who joined the company in 2015 and has been integral in helping to perfect Virgin’s distinct design voice.

What makes Virgin properties stand out from their competitors?
A few fundamentals have stayed the same, and in fact, are more on point than ever, specifically the guestroom layout. Guestroom Chambers, as we call them, are composed of two rooms: a dressing room and sleeping lounge. Among dozens of benefits is the ability to close off the dressing room from the sleeping lounge to have services delivered to your room without coming into contact with another person.

The juice bar at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas spa is wrapped in floor-to-ceiling wood panels

What inspired the design of the recently opened Virgin Hotels Las Vegas?
We converted the Hard Rock into a desert-focused wonderland. Instead of creating a water-hungry garden, we drew inspiration from the area around us and the oddities you may find along the way. These influences are seen throughout the property, from the composed cactus gardens and tent lounges inspired by desert nomads to the arid aesthetic of our poolscapes and outdoor F&B outlets.

Given the past year, how have you seen the hospitality industry evolve?
I love that more of our country has been explored during the pandemic, and the hospitality experiences in small and even remote areas have blossomed. I hope the industry invests in smaller communities to build on the momentum of domestic travel.

Hear more from Teddy:
Brand Identity: New Brands, Upstarts, and Renegades

Wednesday, August 25th
2:30–3:30 p.m.
Location: HD Park

For the full list of conference sessions, visit hdexpo.com.

The post 4 Speakers You Don’t Want to Miss at HD Expo + Conference 2021 appeared first on Hospitality Design.



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