Venus Williams
Founder, V Starr

What keeps you passionate about the industry?
If you have the opportunity in life to do something you love and that challenges you, that’s one of the greatest things you can ask for. I maintain a focus on gratitude and the knowledge that you’re only limited by the limitations you place on yourself, and I always strive to stay free of that, which affords me the opportunity to do many types of work that I love. As humans, we’re never done growing and learning. I am constantly looking to what’s next. I approach all of my endeavors from a place of giving, which provides me with so much in return, including passion and inspiration.

How do you see hospitality evolving in the next five to 10 years?
The focus on wellness will continue to escalate. It was already at the forefront prior to COVID. This trend is not only here to stay but it’s going to take over, making it important that the design and hospitality industries continue to integrate it as part of their longterm plans.

What have you learned from the past year that has changed your approach to hospitality?
There has been so much innovation in the past year. People are making changes in their businesses that would have taken 10 years under normal circumstances. That’s been exciting to watch, and the importance of design is now at an all-time high. People are living and working in new ways, with a renewed focus on what brings contentment and joy. In addition to wellness, we’ll be working with a social focus on design.

What’s a project you’re working on, or one that has recently opened, that you’re most proud of?
As a South Florida-based firm, we have a lot of crossover in the goals and qualities of our hospitality and multifamily project work. Town Village Walk, a multifamily project that is WELL Health/Safety certified, includes a number of innovative wellness amenities. Surrounded by nature with over 7.5 acres of lake, beach entries, and nature preserves, the apartment complex is full of moments for wellness and retreat, including an amazing pool, yoga lawn, and outdoor sports areas.

Piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
I’d share something that I learned early in my career, which is to know what you want and do only the things you want to do. That doesn’t mean there won’t be hard work, sacrifice, and discomfort along the way, but it’s up to you to create and own the framework and structure for your life and goals.

Hear more from Venus:
HD Featured Conversation
Tuesday, August 24th
1:00–2:00 p.m.
Location: DesignWell Pavilion

Todd-Avery Lenahan
President + Chief Creative Officer, Wynn Design & Development

What keeps you passionate about the industry?
The thrill of increasingly complex challenges with new people in new places in a rapidly evolving world culture.

How do you see hospitality evolving in the next five to 10 years?
I’d like to see our industry become more socially and environmentally responsible in our development, design, construction, and operating practices. Hotels and resorts have a profound ability to heighten social and environmental consciousness.

What have you learned from the past year that has changed your approach to hospitality?
The past year has proven that surprise, uncertainty, and crisis will continue to be systemic within our industry. In the past 30 years, we’ve experienced terrorism, wars, recessions, seismic political shifts, and a global pandemic, all of which have had an unprecedented impact. After each crisis, people yearn to travel, explore, escape, and reconnect, and our industry’s ability to be agile, anticipatory, and responsive is what sustains us time and again.

What’s a project you’re working on, or one that has recently opened, that you’re most proud of?
Each of the projects I’ve worked on or am currently working on is a child that I love as much as its siblings. However, the work I completed on the island of Lana’i [in Hawaii] has helped restore the local people’s optimism and pride-of-place, and has therefore been exceptionally rewarding in that the impact goes far beyond what most guests will ever consciously decode, but that they’ll certainly feel in the soulful health and spirit of the people serving them.

Piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
Metaphorically speaking, enjoy the sensation of soft hair on your head, as it won’t last forever!

Hear more from Todd-Avery:
HD Featured Conversation
Wednesday, August 25th
12:30–1:00 p.m.
Location: HD Social Hub

Steve Wilson
Founder, 21c Museum Hotels

What keeps you passionate about the industry?
I am constantly amazed at the number of people we have reached who are so passionate about what we’ve created. The art and the experience evokes an emotional response, and to this day we receive letters from strangers, social media comments, and are occasionally even recognized by fellow travelers in airports. Knowing that we have been able to bring something that is special to our guests and our team drives me to want to continue creating, surprising, and entertaining moments. As an industry, we are part of people’s experiences and some of their most memorable moments.

How do you see hospitality evolving in the next five to 10 years?
People are rediscovering leisure travel and the value of traveling for pleasure. This year has also reminded us that we can have an adventure close to home, even if we cannot travel internationally. It’s exciting, and I hope to continue to see a rise in domestic leisure travel for years to come.

What have you learned from the past year that has changed your approach to hospitality?
Not surprisingly, I’m much more aware of health and safety issues than I ever was before. I was always someone who would shake hands with one hand and touch the arm or shoulder with the other. The challenge, of course, is to remain hospitable, friendly, and welcoming, while at the same time respecting boundaries for the good of all.

What’s a project you’re working on, or one that has recently opened, that you’re most proud of?
I’m very excited about a new 21c in St. Louis where we are renovating an old YMCA building. It has a great historic indoor swimming pool with period tile. We’re planning a ballroom in the old gymnasium, which still has striping on the wooden floor. In addition, my wife and I have been renovating a famous Kentucky horse farm and transforming it into an agri-tourism destination called Hermitage Farm and Barn8 restaurant. We put a restaurant in a horse barn with tables in the stalls and an ever-changing menu direct from a greenhouse and gardens around the barn.

Piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
Think more about longterm than just the visible path before you. Be more strategic. What does 20 years from now look like? Not just five. When I was a young man, I thought 65 was old. In fact, I never dreamed that I’d see 65 years so when I did, I had a big birthday party and got a four-leaf clover tattoo at the party that said: “lucky to be alive at 65.” Now that I’m closer to 75, I’m thinking more about the future than I did when I was younger. Go figure!

Hear more from Steve:
HD Featured Conversation
Tuesday, August 24th
2:30–3:00 p.m.
Location: HD Social Hub

The post HD Expo’s Featured Conversations Offer Industry Reflections appeared first on Hospitality Design.

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