BILL WALSHE, CEO VICEROY HOTEL GROUP
What does it take to successfully steer premium luxury brands through the hospitality market for over two decades? Can Faik talks to Bill Walshe of the Viceroy Hotel Group to find out…
A twenty-year veteran of the luxury hospitality industry, Bill Walshe provides Viceroy Hotel Group with a truly global perspective, bringing vast senior management experience with leading international hospitality companies, including Jumeirah Group, The Doyle Collection and Kempinski Hotels and Resorts. As the CEO of the Doyle Collection, Bill led the brand through its reinvention as a modern luxury urban hotel group that includes 11 hotels in the USA and Europe. Prior to The Doyle Collection, he served as Chief Marketing Officer for Dubai-based Jumeirah Group at a time of tremendous growth for the international luxury hospitality company. Bill carries out his role at an exciting time of accelerating growth for Viceroy Hotel Group, with upcoming openings including: Viceroy Dubai Palm Jumeirah (2016), Viceroy Convento Obria Pia, Cartagena (2017), Viceroy Chicago (2017), Viceroy Quinta da Ombria, Algarve (2017), and Viceroy Dubai Jumeirah Village (2018). Bill’s international experience and recognised status as a leader within the industry will enable him to lead the continued growth and development of Viceroy Hotel Group.
What was your background in hospitality prior to working for Viceroy?
I am a career hotelier, having worked for Kempinski Hotels & Resorts and Jumeirah Group. Prior to joining Viceroy in July 2012, I was CEO of the Dublin-based international modern luxury hospitality group, The Doyle Collection.
What exactly does your role involve?
I like to say that my role as Chief Executive Officer is really the “Chief Pride Officer” of Viceroy Hotel Group. My job is to create environments that make people proud – guests, colleagues, owners.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Embracing the opportunity to create authentic hotel experiences that have a true sense of place, ones that will be a reflection of the culture and people of their destinations. I also love to see young talent rise through the Viceroy ranks to become future leaders.
What are the complexities of meeting the demands of shareholders, fulfilling the growth of your team and delivering the brand’s values to guests?
I approach the complexity of keeping all stakeholders satisfied from a perspective of pride. Proud colleagues deliver exceptional service experiences to happy guests, who then want to return, creating a profitable business that makes the owners proud!
With a number of new hotels due to open in the next two years in Dubai, what will Viceroy do to stay one step ahead of its competition?
The combination of Viceroy’s unique style of modern luxury hospitality, the incredible architecture and interior designs of the hotel, and our A+ location on the trunk of Palm Jumeirah will put us in a winning position when Viceroy Dubai Palm Jumeirah opens next year.
What are Viceroy‘s Unique Selling Points?
For one, we never compromise on individuality. We have never and will never take a ‘cookie cutter’ approach in creating new hotels – each one is unique and a reflection of the destination and community it serves. We are a glorious oxymoron; ‘Consistent Individuality’
Secondly, we create ‘sensation’. At each of our properties, we want to do all we can to curate and activate environments where guests can create memories. We do this through targeted programming (for leisure, business, group and family travelers) and key partnerships with like-minded brands.
Lastly, Viceroy has an amazing brand image, but we live by our Viceroy Ideology, which is a series of commitment statements that keep us focused on what is truly important. ‘We are hosts, first and always’. That really is our DNA.
Is the development of Viceroy’s new Dubai property, still on course for opening next year and what will then be next for the Viceroy brand?
Yes, we are moving full speed ahead, which is fantastic, and are still on track for a Q3 opening. We are also currently developing hotels in The Algarve, Cartagena, Panama and Chicago, with additional announcements to come in the upcoming months. Watch this space!
What is your plan for the Viceroy brand in the Europe?
Building on our recent announcement of Viceroy at Quinta da Ombria in Portugal we are evaluating additional opportunities in Europe. London is without doubt our number-one target destination for development in the world. As a European myself, I am excited at the prospect of infusing the London hotel scene with a little of that true Los Angeles vibe.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
Hotel owners vary greatly from passionate, high net worth individuals creating a legacy to institutions investing available capital to create financial returns. Each category is motivated by hugely different drivers. Happily we frequently find ourselves managing on behalf of someone driven by creating enormous value through absolute quality, as is the case with Skai Holdings, the owners of Viceroy Dubai Palm Jumeirah.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
I think hotel groups are now going for design concepts that are sustainable and not as focused on being ‘trendy’. It’s best to have a classic, stunning design that will last, instead of a “cool” hotel with extreme features that will have to be renovated in three years when they go out of fashion.
How important has hotel design become when launching a new hotel?
Design – external and internal – is incredibly important. The overall aesthetic must create a “vibe”, and, again, a true sense of the place in which the hotel is situated. The work that Yabu Pushelberg is doing creating the interiors for Viceroy Dubai Palm Jumeirah is quite simply extraordinary. I am also very excited by the revamp of L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills under the guidance of Smith & Firestone Associates (SFA). Having a great design partner on a project is a joy, and Viceroy is proud to work with the best in the business.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Creating hotels that people feel are relevant, nurturing young talent and making people proud.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed in?
Deliberately picking hotels I have not been associated with professionally and which evoke amazing memories: Le Quartier Saisons in Franschhoek, South Africa; Sanctuary Lodge Machu Picchu, Peru: and my favorite resort, ‘Finca Cortesin’ in Casares, Spain.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
I have started to travel to Latin America recently and I am in love with Colombia, Panama and Nicaragua. I want to explore this region much more.
Let’s finish with the issue of work-life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance, and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
Traveling for around 175 days a year, I consider fitness to be one of the most important elements in maintaining a healthy balance. I am a ‘Soul Cycle’ [spin class] fanatic and after a long trip nothing revives me like an hour of vigorous exercise in the saddle! As I get older I am also changing the way I eat, and have learned a lot in this regard from my close friend and leading fitness expert, Harley Pasternak. His smoothie-based “reset diet” is fantastic for recalibrating my system, and for keeping my energy levels high. In terms of balancing work and family life, technology makes it so much easier to stay connected to home when I am away for work, although it’s also too easy now to stay connected to work when I am enjoying family time!