RED Hospitality and Leisure is a leading provider of resort services including destination services, watersports, beach and recreation operations, destination management services and transportation. Their clients include premier brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, Westin, and leading hotel REITS in North America and the Caribbean. Their company motto is “Exceptional Experiences by Exceptional People.” RED specializes in providing critical guest-facing departments with subject matter experts, passionate associates, and dedicated management.
With a vertically integrated model, it allows them to provide an end-to-end, highly curated guest experience, driving increased guest satisfaction and revenue for our hotel partners. We work closely with clients to ensure seamless and transparent integration of brand standards. The RED team is made up of hospitality professionals dedicated to turning revenue negative or neutral departments, such as recreation and concierge, into profitable and engaging areas of our client hotels.
Last week, 360 Magazine got the opportunity to speak with Jason Campbell who is responsible for leading RED’s five markets and its subsidiary businesses. With over twenty years of experience in hospitality – focusing on hotel integration, opening project management, guest service standards, and organizational capabilities – Jason provided a lot of insight and useful information to understand the industry.
What brought you into the hospitality industry?
I couldn’t wait to get my work permit when I turned 14 and my first position was at Chesapeake Bagel Bakery in Northern Virginia. I got a thrill out of managing the ‘rush’ each day and the ability to put a smile on someone’s face by providing them genuine service. I went on to study Hotel Management in high school and after competing in DECA, I was confident I would make my passion for hospitality my profession. I later joined Great American Restaurants and learned the importance of team service, which transformed me into thinking more about ‘we’ and less about ‘me’. There was so much more we accomplished together than as individual contributors, which became a part of my management philosophy thereafter. One afternoon we toured a nearby full-service, Marriott hotel and it opened my eyes to all the positions you could learn in the hotel business – from accounting, management, events, food and beverage, front office, valet, concierge, retail, and spa, it put me on a path to seek out a company which I could grow within to learn as much as I could. I started with Marriott as a pool server in Orlando at The World Center hotel, our biggest property at the time, and worked my way up to a Senior Director at their Corporate office in Bethesda leading various teams of operational subject matter experts.
What would you say helped get you where you are?
I was fortunate to start working early and understanding how organizations function. This allowed me the opportunity to be groomed by incredible mentors early in my career. I had a ‘fire in my belly’ which kept me curious to learn more and push beyond my comfort levels which accelerated my learning. Reading books like ‘Setting the Table’ by Danny Meyer broadened my perspectives on how other companies were building their success and created inspiration for me. Throughout my career, I would raise my hand to take on a new project or move into unknown territory. I found I enjoyed projects which required the ability to work well in ambiguity, innovate ideas and test hypothesis, then refine and document processes and procedures to drive sustainability of those initiatives. These projects then presented themselves more frequently and I’ve been thankful to be able to write my own job description for the past decade of my career, focused on building organizations moving from the startup phases of a company’s lifecycle, into to their adolescence and growth stages.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced/currently facing?
The hospitality industry is one of many industries experiencing a labor shortage right now, further compounded by the return of unprecedented demand it’s going to be a constraint over the upcoming quarters as the workforce resets and restabilizes post-COVID. We’ve turned this challenge into a strength by focusing on the development of our current employees, up and down the organization. Our philosophy is if we can recruit the best and invest in their continuous development, we will be able to build our bench over time and capitalize on the human equity which differentiates us from our competitors. We have been allocating resources to not only respond to the weekly demand and provide quality products and services, but to further enhance the training tools and resources we have available to our team members. Additionally, we provide various coaching programs for our management team, making them more versatile, compassionate, and effective in their roles, as well as consistency driving the company’s culture across five marketplaces. This will continue to translate to us having low turnover than industry averages, and a solid foundation to build momentum behind. We run a fast-paced business with high expectations, and if we can show someone a path to continue to grow their career, the future opportunities are endless.
How would you describe your efficiency of operations?
We lead our business units by empowering our managers and employees to make decisions which they believe are in the best interest of the customer, our clients, and the business. This allows us to be more productive as an organization and gives us the opportunity to admit when we make a mistake, which is really a win-win, in that it encourages continuous improvement in a comfortable, trusting environment. We would rather our teams try and fail, than fail to try. If we do fail, we fail fast, learn what didn’t work, pivot, and try again. We are thankful in that our teams are highly committed and highly motivated individuals, who have embodied this framework, which has allowed us to launch new initiatives such as retail operations on land and at sea, developing and accrediting a new sailing academy, creating marine biology expositions to teach guests about local marine life, and activating community programming events to support the neighborhoods we do business in.
Any exciting collaborations in the future?
This quarter, we will be launching a social media management strategy, including a once in a lifetime position to hire a brand ambassador who will travel and experience our brands around South Florida and the Caribbean, curating the content they create to share our company’s story and the first-hand experiences our customers and employees experience. We recently engaged a Public Relations agency who is helping us identify additional opportunities to participate in and sponsor industry conferences, guest speak on discussion panels, and network with lifestyle companies in similar spaces to support the fast rebound of travel.
We’re fortunate to have incredible partners in the luxury and boutique hotel space today, which really resonates with our customers and our brand. From a guest perspective, our goal is for our teams to be in differentiated from the hotel employees, and because RED employees share similar core values, ethical alignment and exemplary hospitality skills as the hotels and brands we work with, this is another advantage of both parties. We operate as an extension of their executive teams, leading and supporting departments they can depend on, which results in the continued collaboration of group efforts to coordinate and plan special events such as unique Festive Season offerings.
Any advice for those working in the hospitality industry?
More of a thank you. This downturn has had the worst impact to our industry in history. I’m inspired by those who double downed and had faith in the recovery of travel and the tenacity to see through what an accelerated return to business demands is now. There are still challenges which lie ahead and I think those who have invested in themselves and their company’s success over the past year are going to have many opportunities to grow into their next roles. A shared benefit to those who have stayed engaged and been fortunate to remain a part of a company, have adapted to wear many hats and understand the intricacies of other parts of the business, the connectedness and importance of each of those disciplines. The human equity which RED has produced over the past year is one we will continue to cultivate as we build our bench strength, deploying our top performers into more complex markets and higher visibility opportunities, such as the launch of new markets and properties next year.
How did COVID impact RED?
RED, like all travel companies, had to significantly consolidate operations when demand evaporated at the start of Covid. Interestingly, the closure of international borders created a change in domestic traveler’s preferences, and encouraged them to seek homeland destinations, often gravitating to the sun and sea. This summer, we had record demand with travelers from Texas, New York, Florida, and North Carolina being the first to return, most notably to our Sebago offerings in Key West.
The pent-up demand led to travelers staying in destination for longer, and often spending more than years prior, because they had more expendable income after foregoing their annual vacation the year prior. RED offers outdoor experiences, which were in high demand as guests returned, and we continue to see stronger than anticipated demand through September and October which are our typical shoulder slower months. This is encouraging to us, and we predict a busy year lies ahead, especially as inbound international travel returns.
Any plans for expansion?
Indeed. It’s one of our company goals for the next year. We launched our first international market and operations at The Ritz-Carlton in Turks and Caicos in June, which we plan to expand upon very soon. We also expanded to two new hotels in Key West and signed a new contract to launch at two new hotels by the end of 2022.
There are many hotel owners who reinvested in their properties during the pandemic and are preparing to reopen operations in the upcoming quarters. Over that same period, RED has further solidified its value proposition, which provides owners and operators a turnkey solution to their recreation, tour and activity and watersport experience offerings. Our background in preopening project management, operational execution and building high performing work teams with exemplary service and technical watersports skills tells a compelling story. We will continue to look for clients we can build more of these symbiotic relationships with.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
There is a specific competency and skill set we’ve begun to speak about internally and are starting to see gain traction in social and training platforms, which is Emotional intelligence. The recovery from this pandemic is one which has impacted everyone in the world and has provided a common experience amongst all of us which didn’t exist before. Although each of us may have experienced it differently, it is something which we hope can bring us back together and teach us to be more empathetic to one another, building on those connections amongst us. Of course, we recommend one of the best places you can have those conversations is onboard one of our catamarans with a beverage in hand, watching the sunset fall off the horizon. Safe travels to everyone and thanks for the time. We hope to see you soon.
More on RED Hospitality and Leisure here.