As Chairman and CEO of Playa Hotels & Resorts, Bruce Wardinski has built a growing portfolio of resorts in the most coveted resort destinations. The resorts offer a premium, authentic experience, with an emphasis on the company’s motto, Service From The Heart. For nearly two decades, Mr. Wardinski has devoted his career to elevating the all-inclusive experience while broadening the segment’s total addressable market through best-in-class brand partnerships with global giants, Hyatt and Hilton. His strategy includes a healthy mix of strategic real estate investments and management contracts and has made Playa Resorts a known leader in this burgeoning segment.
We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Mr. Wardinski to learn more about the ever-growing all-inclusive segment and tips for success in hospitality, today.
You are credited with bringing global hospitality brands into the all-inclusive space during a time when the sector was dominated by family-owned companies with little to no brand equity. What sparked this idea for a partnership, and what steps did you take to make it become a reality?
What really appealed to me about the all-inclusive opportunity was the undeniable value proposition to the guest and the potential to drive superior financial returns for owners by delivering value in a way that wasn’t widely available in the market. I believe our growing portfolio of resorts successfully serves as proof of concept. Further, our ability to continue to do business during the pandemic demonstrates the power of a direct booking engine but also the resilience of the all-inclusive concept throughout the toughest of times.
You are considered a visionary, having the ability to identify trends and opportunities years before they become mainstream. What is next for this thriving segment and what are you most excited about looking toward the future?
The all-inclusive segment is growing and here to stay. It has become attractive to a segment of the population who never considered all-inclusive vacations and found that they truly love the convenience of the high-touch, seamless experience.
Going forward, we will see all-inclusive resorts in many new locations with new global hospitality brands that were never considered before in those markets as a result of premiumization. Our premium offering has really resonated with travelers because of the value that we provide including high-touch service, top-of-the-line amenities such as award-winning spas and fitness centers, and a wide range of thematic, a-la-carte dining.
I believe you will also continue to see less of a one-size-fits-all approach with increased levels of segmentation that offer memorable resort experiences for travelers at every price point. Travelers today want convenience without forgoing quality and it is our responsibility to create an exceptional experience that delivers both. That is the all-inclusive difference.
In addition to founding Barcelo Crestline and Playa Hotels & Resorts, the first publicly-traded company dedicated to the all-inclusive space, you’ve had a long, impressive career in hospitality driven by the ability to build bridges and pivot at crucial times. Do you have any words of advice for young budding professionals as well as those already in management positions looking to work their way up? How do you make a move while keeping relationships intact?
It’s simple. Build relationships with those who want to see you succeed. Always want others to succeed. Find a mentor from whom you can learn from and always pay it forward by mentoring others. Every day take the opportunity to learn and grow from all those around you and then apply what you have learned to your work. Hard work and dedication always pay off.
Seeing your vision and predictions for the future of all-inclusive come to life has to be exhilarating. Is there one defining moment or transaction in your career that stands out for you?
We were fortunate to be successful right out of the gate with the initial Hyatt conversion in Cancun and haven’t looked back since! Iconic real estate, luxury service, and a focus on direct customer relationships really laid the foundation for the success of Playa.
Data shows that the travel industry suffered the greatest downturn in its history due to the pandemic. If you had to share one piece of advice with professionals who are trying to build a career during uncertain times, what would it be?
The hospitality industry is volatile, but so are many other industries. That said, travel will always be part of people’s lives for business, leisure, special events, groups, and more. Hospitality will never go away because no matter what the reason, people want and need to travel. While it may not be for everyone, and times may feel uncertain, there’s no greater joy than doing something you love each day. My advice would be to work hard and focus on always delivering the best service possible and focus on the matters within your control.
You’re a founding member of the non-profit, ServiceSource. Can you talk about the organization, the role it plays in hospitality, and how ILHA members can get involved?
ServiceSource is an amazing nonprofit organization that facilitates partnerships that support people with disabilities, their families, their caregivers, and community members to build more inclusive communities. The organization offers an enormous range of services, but the Career Center is great for hospitality because management can hire high-performing individuals with disabilities in numerous roles throughout their hotels. Many organizations, including Playa, believe that a diverse workforce provides the best results. ServiceSource can provide support to organizations and employees. https://www.servicesource.org/get-involved/