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TEDxWilmington Lust for Life Recap: Umbutu & Fostering Human Connection through Tech, Travel, Pride, and Service

This post was originally published by the Independent Lodging Congress.

Did you miss out on our June 7 TEDxWilmington event Lust for Life? Your loss. The day was filled with a powerful vibrancy, mouthwatering fish tacos and crab cakes courtesy of chef Brian Ashby, and some top notch speakers from the realms of hospitality and travel. In true ILC fashion, the day was intimate, laid back, and inspiring.

While we wait for the official videos of each Talk to be released (you’ll be first to know when they’re out), here is a quick recap of our key takeaways from all eight talks.


Mark Harmon

Founder, Auberge Resorts Collection

Talk: The Soul of a Hotel

Mark Harmon started the day off with a question we’d aspire to answer throughout the day: Can a hotel have a soul? For Harmon, soulfulness is created when the building’s design incorporates the surrounding environment. A hotel’s soul relies on embracing and adding to a local culture. While businesses are often seen as soulless, hotels can (and should) disrupt that stigma by creating bonds, meaning and helping to build a community.

Gerard Greene

CEO & Co-Founder, Society

Talk: Society: Building flourishing co-living communities through tech, design, and the sharing economy

Gerard Greene’s talk had a Utopian vibe to it. A utopia fueled by technology, that is. Gerard is an entrepreneur with an itch to not only disrupt but ultimately change the system of a given industry. While he’s most known for co-founding the chain of tech-ready micro-hotels known as Yotel, his latest co-living endevour strives to simplify our lives and connect us to our community. As Gerard said in his talk: “the sharing economy isn’t new, it’s just something we forgot about for a little bit.”

Michael Keriakos

Co-founder & CEO,

Talk: Why Luxury Hotels & the Publishers Who Write about Them Ought to rethink Their Relationships

Michael Keriakos was the data guru of the line-up. During his talk, he told a story about his light bulb question: Why shouldn’t publishers get paid for hotel bookings their content helps generate? “You can actually measure the point of inspiration,” Michael noted, “and hotel publishers can do this if they want to.” Talk about a profitable idea (worth spreading).

Bashar Wali

President, Provenance Hotels

Talk: A Hotel is Just a Building

Bashar Wali has never given a TED talk before? Really? His talk, which centered around human connection, spanned the realms of hospitality. “Service is what gets you in the game, but it doesn’t win you the game” Wali eloquently stated, “connection is what wins you the game.” He told a story in which an inebriated young man made an oddly specific request when his girlfriend was booking a stay at one of his hotels. The ask? Two pillow mints, a hand drawn (and framed) picture of Neil deGrasse Tyson and a handwritten love letter from the astrophysicist to Bill Nye the Science Guy. In the name of human connection, that request was fulfilled and a 5 Star Yelp rating was received.

Bill Walshe

CEO, Viceroy Hotel Group

Talk: Business Ideology – A Roadmap of Pride

Before we get to Bill Walshe, we just want to note that he owns the term “Prideology.” Seriously, don’t try to be slick by stealing it. Perhaps one of the more cerebral talks of the day, Walshe demonstrated what it means to be, what he calls, a Chief Pride Officer. He dubbed mediocrity a virus, noting that pride is a “personal commitment, an attitude which separates excellence from mediocrity.” It’s all about activating the ideology in pursuit of purpose….not profit. How proud are YOU feeling today?

Alex Cabanas


Talk: The Bar is So Low – The Unfortunate and Fortunate Realities of Delivering Memorable Service

The bar is so low. Why? According to Alex Cabanas, it’s because the extra mile is an unbelievably lonely place and because, as consumers, we are innately selfish. The solution? “Be somebody that deposits into the emotional bank account of every great service you receive,” Alex suggests. Once we know just how low the bar is, we can easily jump over the competition. When it comes to service, ‘my pleasure’ beats ‘no problem’ every single time.

Joe Diaz

Co-Founder & CPO, AFAR

Talk: From Fear to Fearless: The Transformational Power of Travel

Joe Diaz touched on a chicken-egg problem. While travel is the best form of education, times of uncertainty often hurt the travel and tourism sector. But, according to Joe, travel is the best antidote for fear, as it bridges the education and cultural gaps. In his talk, Diaz broke down how to foster a shift in perspective in five ways: 1) Travel every day with a curious mind 2) Create purpose driven brands 3) #TravelDeeper while embracing immersion and creating connections 4) Be Real 5) Take leaps and embrace the unknown.

Jerry Inzerillo

CEO, Forbes Travel Guide

Talk: Global Trends in Luxury Hospitality

Jerry Inzerillo traveled 362 days last year. He has stayed at an unfathomable amount of 3 star, 4 star and 5 star hotels. Needless to say, he’s an industry veteran. “If you serve with all your heart and soul,” noted Inzerillo, “you don’t have to worry about the outcome.” He pointed out that while global tourism is in no way slowing down, there’s a world-wide outcry asking ‘who do I trust’. Jerry commented that OTA’s ultimately broke the promise of brand integrity. When it comes to hospitality, Inzerillo referenced Desmond Tutu’s term Unbutu which encompasses the essence of being human: a mesh of generosity, compassion and affirming of others.

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