Viceroy Hotels’ CEO on Oxygen Bars, Flight Attendants, and Travel's 'Next Big Thing'
Former DJ and comedian Bill Walshe—now the CEO of Viceroy Hotels—spends 200-plus days a year on the road. It’s no surprise that he was a unique point of view on being a road warrior. Here’s what he has to say about trending destinations, his travel pet peeves, and his unusual cures for jet lag.
What destination are you obsessed with right now?
I was just in Cartagena—my current favorite place in the world. We’re converting a 14th-century monastery in the old town into what will be a beautiful new hotel, so I’ve been going back and forth. Each time I go, I think I could move there. Colombia, Nicaragua, that whole part of Latin America reaching into Central America is just the next big thing in travel—you’ll see.
Is there a city you love going back to again and again?
Dubai. One of my children was born there, I lived there for many years, and now it’s the site of some future projects. Really the entire UAE is amazingly energetic. It’s a place where imagination can really become reality. The speed of implementation, the willingness to realize that failure is an important part of success, and the confidence that people have in getting things done is inspirational.
What’s your biggest pet peeve as a traveler?
The difficulty—bordering on inability—of staying relatively healthy on the road, particularly when it comes to my eating habits. I always feel like I leave Los Angeles as a human being and return as a giant carbohydrate.
How do you stay entertained on long flights?
I’m the guy with headphones, muttering to myself in very bad Spanish while doing Rosetta Stone lessons—it’s my new goal to learn Spanish.
What was your worst flying experience?
I once had an airline crew member so rude, I thought I was being set up on a reality show. It was a long transatlantic flight from London to New York, and this person managed to make “good morning” sound like a declaration of war. I had no idea what I had done to make him want to punch me—though thankfully he didn’t do that.
Aisle or window seat?
Check or carry on?
Carry on at any cost. Though here’s a pet peeve of mine: certain airlines, like Aer Lingus, can’t seem to conform to an acceptable carry on size. When I pop back home for a quick visit, a carry on bag that is acceptable to 99 percent of the airlines in the world isn’t acceptable to them. The lack of consistency drives me wild.
You must have a ritual for dealing with the annoyances of travel.
I always top off my travels with a SoulCycle class. If I get back from the UAE in the early evening, I’m on a bike at 6 a.m. the next morning. In Abu Dhabi, they’ve learned to put a spin bike in my suite and I become a one-man spin class. I just took it up two years ago and it’s an incredible way to overcome jet lag.
Any other tips for beating jet lag?
I love the oxygen shots you can buy—we put them in the minibar in some of our hotels like at Snowmass, since it’s at altitude—or going to an oxygen bar wherever they have them. You sit in a big massage chair and choose your flavor of oxygen, put a thing over your head with nozzles that shoot pure oxygen up your nose, and you feel incredible. It’s not a hit or a rush, it just re-energizes you and gives you such a better quality of sleep. The shots are like a can of soda with a mouth guard, you press a button, inhale, and that’s it!
If you’re not staying at a Viceroy, where do you go?
Typically I’ll try to find whatever is within our competitive set—even if we have a hotel there, I like to see what the competition is up to. I’m looking forward to trying the Baccarat on my next trip to New York. In Paris I might stay at the Park Hyatt, which I adore. But I’m always mixing it up. And if I’m on vacation, I love to rent homes—staying at a hotel makes me feel like I’m at work. I love to cook, so having a great kitchen for family meals is a great way decompress.