Roundtable Recap

by Ashley P. Smith

This week I had the opportunity to attend the Owners Roundtable in New York City. I went into the event thinking that it would be overcrowded and I wouldn’t get any real conversation time with colleagues or industry insight. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a break from work and an incredible lunch at a place like TAO Downtown?

I was 100% incorrect, and so glad.

Hospitality Design Magazine and NEWH New York did an outstanding job with the organization and flow of the event. Not only did they raise great awareness to the fundraising for scholarships but they made sponsors and attendees feel welcomed and appreciated.

During the event I had the opportunity to meet with Verena Haller, Equinox Hotels; Starwoods’, Ted Jacobs; Kemper Hyers, Starwood Capital; Amy Hulbert, Best Western International; Lori Horvath, JLL; and, Ron Kollar, Tishman Hotel Corp. They all provided great insight into each of their businesses and were a pleasure to interact with! We talked about everything from mini-golf to strategic business decisions.

Here are a few points that stood out to me (there was so much more!):

  • Verena Haller said Equinox Hotels is building a brand for the “high performance traveler”; those guests that want to take their lifestyle on the road. When the guest checks into the hotel, Equinox wants them to think “I know who I am. I have arrived.”
    • They are focusing on Movement, Nutrition and Regeneration.
    • The rooms will all be about rest because “what makes you good comes from a good nights sleep.”
  • In a recent meeting, Ted Jacobs and his team were asked “how do you know when you’ve pushed past the line?” in regards to design. Their answer: “There is no line.” They do not want to be that middle of the road brand – they want a strong reaction out of every single guest, good or bad but always big and strong.
  • Kemper Hyers mentioned he wants products and projects that “no one else is willing to take a risk on” … they will “look at anything – try anything”.

I gained a lot of insight from the people at Table 17 (shout out!) as well as the Hosts I mentioned above. We work in such an incredible and unique industry;  the future is bright for all of us and the possibilities are endless!



Ashley, Amy Hulbert-Manketlow {Best Western Intl}, Robin Holt {Guild 13}


Ashley & Christina Hart {HOK}


Matt Friedman {Integra Fabrics, NY} and Ashley


TAO Downtown


2016 Table Hosts


TAO Downtown


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