10 Questions For (39): Josiah Mackenzie

I’ve been bugging him for quite some time and am glad being able to present 5 Star Hotel Marketeer Josiah Mackenzie.

1) Who are you?

I’m a bon vivant passionate about travel, tea, writing, running, technology, hospitality, design, stories, startups, my hometown of San Francisco, my current city of Barcelona, and anything related to innovation and making the world a better place.

My background is in technology and software startups, but I’m working towards eventually opening a hospitality company in the near future. Now I’m taking my technology experience and using it to help forward-thinking people in the hospitality industry deliver better service and experiences to their guests. What I have done, am doing, and will do is the only way I know to blend all my interests.

2) What do you like about what you do?

I love talking with people who are on the front lines of innovation, and hearing about the projects they’re working on. For example, I’ve had some good conversations recently with Diego Sartori and Michael Levie of citizenM Hotels – and they just might be creating the coolest hospitality concept in the world right now. Watching them reinvent every component of a traditional hotel is fascinating: from the modular construction to how they publish a digital lifestyle magazine.

I like ideas, but I love action. I’ve been fortunate to work on interesting projects in very creative organizations, allowing me to continuously test theories and see what actually works.

Now I’m spending most of my time working with a very talented, dedicated, driven team at ReviewPro, lead by CEO RJ Friedlander. I’ve always enjoyed watching entrepreneurs in action, and RJ is one of the most dynamic executives I’ve met. I work as an industry analyst with them – watching and reporting on how social technologies are changing the way the travel industry operates. As frequent participant in both the consumer and supplier side of travel, this is an ideal position for me right now.

Managed!

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

My philosophy is that if you’re doing work you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s definitely true for me. I love what I do, and that makes everything easier.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

I have a very simple goal: to become the most influential travel technology personality in the world. :) To this end, I’m focused on writing stories and case studies of technology in action. Whenever possible, I prefer to highlight what’s working – instead of pontificating on theory.

I started Hotel Marketing Strategies in the summer of 2008 as just a way to share insights from the projects I was working on. Now, it’s grown to become the leading hotel marketing blog in the world. My rockstar editor Katie Clapp and I talk with people shaking up the travel industry, and then profile their work in blog posts and articles.

An example of this is my recent conversation with James Kinney, who has found live entertainment events to be the single best way for hotels to generate attention on the social web. If you hang out too long in typical social media marketing sites, you are more likely to see another article on “why you should use Twitter” – instead of a compelling case study that involves Cedric the Entertainer, Manhattan hotels, and 300% growth in social media activity.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

Berlin – I used to live in Berlin, and it remains one of my favorite cities in Europe, if not the world. There’s an energy there that is hard to find elsewhere. I enjoy shopping and dining in the Prenzlauer Berg and Hackescher Markt areas.

Colonia, Uruguay – This can be done as a day trip from Buenos Aires, but it’s much better to stay overnight. On my first visit here, I rented a bike, got lost, and then found a beautiful, nearly deserted beach that was so unexpected that it felt like paradise. (Getting lost typically leads to the best travel experiences for me.)

Dubai- Some find Dubai to be artificial, but its hard not to be impressed by how audacious the developers are in this city. I find the architecture inspirational.

If I can add a fourth, it would be Paris. I’ve visited a handful of times, and lived here briefly in the past, but frankly wasn’t a big fan. But on a trip back there this Spring, I fell in love with the city for some reason for the first time. Paris is the new Paris.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

Witt Istanbul Suites in Istanbul remains my #1 hotel experience to date: Luxurious, modern, and exotic. Guests enjoy a privileged view over the city from rooms designed by Autoban. Founder and owner Tuncel Toprak is a genius, and doing exactly what I want to be doing very soon.

Witt Istanbul Suites

Tailor Made Hotel in Buenos Aires exudes a low-key vibe in a high-energy city. I enjoyed the minimalist design and very friendly service. Original founder Mariquel Waingarten understood what many modern travelers are looking for, and executed a simple concept very well.

I recently stayed at La Maison Champs Elysees in Paris, and was fascinated to see how the owners partnered with Maison Martin Margelia to re-launch the hotel. High fashion entering the hotel industry is an interesting trend I’m observing right now. Hugues Godard, Martin Soler and their teams are doing a great job with this property.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?

Someone once told me that dining experiences are 50% about the restaurant, and 50% about who you’re dining with. ;) I think that’s true, and fortunately I’m usually blessed with great dining partners. While I’ve had some extraordinary dining experiences around the world, I’m going to highlight some favorites in my hometown of San Francisco. San Franciscans get spoiled with some excellent New American cuisine with very fresh ingredients – places like Radius and Outerlands.
French Toast at Outerlands
One of my favorite wine spots in San Francisco is Moussy’s – an underground wine bar & tapas place. When I’m in the SoMa district, District is another fun place.

As someone who could eat breakfast food for every meal, I recommend a true American breakfast at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. Had some very inspiration breakfasts at this San Francisco institution, talking travel innovation with @Michael Hraba, @Lisa Demoney, @Henry Harteveldt and @Jacob Morgan.

And for a solid all-around lunch restaurant that never disappoints, I have to give a shoutout to Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. Owner Jesse Jacobs is one of the restaurateurs I admire most in the industry, running his business in a very socially responsible way. The Yerba Buena gardens location is a hotspot for SF tech entrepreneurs, so when dining here you’ll be surrounded by people building the next Twitter or Facebook.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

I try to forget about those!

Actually, I very rarely have terrible travel experiences. With the right travel research, it’s possible to avoid the worst places. I practice what I preach and use guest and customer reviews – like the ReviewPro City Rankings – extensively when planning travel, and they typically lead me to the best places in a new city. I’ve never had a bad experience staying at a hotel that was rated among the top 10 in a city.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

View on Barcelona

I’m writing this from Barcelona, and the landmark W Hotel Barcelona is a hub for what’s cool in this city. The rooftop bar is one of my favorite places to bring visitors for a spectacular view over the Mediterranean Sea.

The El Born neighborhood is packed with interesting boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Definitely worth walking around at night or during the weekend.

Finally, I’m a huge fan of simple and stylish modern cafes. Anyone visiting Barcelona should check out Crusto, Cornelia & Co, Habuluc, Federal, Alsur Cafe, La Luna, and Princesa 23.

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

You covered it all, but I love sharing tools I find helpful. To make this as useful as possible for your readers, here are some iPhone/Blackberry apps and that make my life as a writer and traveler easier, more efficient, or just more fun. (Note: I am not affiliated in any way with these companies)

Evernote – makes it much easier to organize all the ideas floating through my head
Instapaper – good for reading articles offline
Tungle – makes scheduling appointments so much easier
Instagram – easily share artistic photos
TripIt – great for organizing your travel
Path – sharing your life through photos with close friends
● Gowalla – making my phone a passport
UrbanSpoon – my favorite way to find great restaurants

Finally, I love to meet people, so if anyone reading this wants to connect, you can find me on Twitter professionally @HmarketingHelp or personally @JosiahMackenzie.

Josiah Mackenzie
¡Buen viaje!

My Take

In editing this interview I once more concluded that I myself didn’t follow you and your blog enough throughout the last two years and can only advise my readers to closely follow you, because you are very generous in sharing your experiences both in hotel marketing and living the good life!

I suggest that you come over and stay at Haagsche Suites once before you truly plunge into your hospitality adventure yourself to discuss those plans while enjoying a good glass of wine:-)

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7 Responses to 10 Questions For (39): Josiah Mackenzie

  1. Loved the interview ! There were some interesting details (e.g. that you lived in Berlin) that I never knew…

    What I didn’t like that much though was that I thought you pushed a few companies (e.g. Review Pro, the Paris hotel where you got a stay) a bit too much…

    Cheers
    Mihir

  2. Very thorough and in-depth interview! I learned a lot, and may I say Josiah that I share your love of Instagram! If you like getting your photos in-hand, check out PostalPix and Postagram in the app store.

    What do you think about the quality of digital marketing for independent hoteliers?

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