Who is Indigo Solutions?
Steve Townsend started his hospitality career as a Front Desk Clerk at a Holiday Inn in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1974, while attending Florida State University. He moved on to the “big hotel” in town a year later, to become a Front Desk Supervisor at the Tallahassee Hilton. He was hooked! After graduating from Florida State’s Hospitality School in 1975, Steve kicked off a career that has taken him to a wide range of locales and an eclectic array of organizations. The first taste of large hotel experience also introduced Steve to the Condominium resort industry during 7 years in the Front Office at Innisbrook, a 1,000 unit condo resort, golf and convention facility near Clearwater, Florida.
Eventually feeling the need for new challenges, Steve was fortunate to have the opportunity to join the team at Opryland Hotel, in Nashville, Tennessee in 1982. Under the tutelage of Jack Vaughn, the iconic General Manager of the hotel, Steve learned a great deal about quality, high standards and the commitment required to maintain them. Steve eventually became Director of Rooms at Opryland, which at that time had 1,100 rooms and about 1,500 staff in the Rooms Division.
After 3 years at Opryland, opportunity knocked once again, and this time it was the chance to open a Ramada Hotel across the street from Opryland, as General Manager. This was an education in itself. The hotel owner already owned a nearby budget motel and had significantly lower standards than those at Opryland, along with many other challenges. Opening this hotel, the first of many in a long career, was a great experience. There is something very fulfilling about building the team from Square One, establishing the standards, working with talented people to create the marketing and sales plans, and F&B operation and having your fingers in every aspect of the creation of a new hotel.
Once this hotel was up and running and successful, it was time to move on. The Caribbean was the next stop, with the opportunity to become the Assistant General Manager at a struggling, severely under-financed, yet very beautiful resort on St. Thomas, called Mahogany Run. Unfortunately, financial problems with the Owner’s other businesses far from St. Thomas brought what could have been a great success to a screeching halt when it went bankrupt and was taken over by the VI government. This too was a learning experience. It challenges a Manager’s creativity and commitment when you are forced to make do with little or no resources. Notwithstanding the challenges, the resort was successful until forces far flung from St. Thomas ended that chapter.
A series of fortunate connections led to an opportunity to move across two oceans and the US to Hawaii, where Steve spent most of the next 17 years, the first 7 of which were with Village Resorts, a small resort management company, based in Northern California. After Assistant GM assignments on Kauai and Maui, Steve was promoted to GM at Kiahuna Plantation, in Poipu, on Kauai, in 1991. What followed was experience that no one should seek, but that left an indelible mark and lots of experience. Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai in September, 1992, all but destroying a pristine, oceanfront 38 acre 333 unit resort paradise. The ensuing two years were consumed with damage mitigation, insurance claims, reconstruction planning, rebuilding a management team and eventual reopening.
Lots of lessons learned along the way, some by making missteps, prepared Steve for a dubious opportunity to repeat the process just a few years later. Not long after leaving Village Resorts in 1995, to become the Regional Director of Operations for Interstate Hotels, Colony Resorts in Hawaii, Steve was called on to return to the Caribbean to assist with an extreme exercise in bad timing. Interstate had taken over management of Point Pleasant in September of that year, days before Hurricane Marilyn swept across the Caribbean, heavily damaging Point Pleasant and shutting down St. Thomas. What followed was nearly two years of shuttling back and forth from Honolulu, and eventually spending a year full time in St. Thomas, leading a team to repeat the process of a few years earlier on Kauai, albeit more effectively, with the advantage of earlier lessons learned. The resort reopened on a firm financial footing and was immediately successful.
In mid-1997 Steve returned to Hawaii to become Sr. Vice President, Operations for Castle Group in Honolulu, a resort development and management company. During his time with Castle, Steve led their expansion to Micronesia, opening new resorts on Saipan and Guam, as well as renovating and reopening one in Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia.
In 2000, Steve left Castle for an opportunity with Aston Hotels and Resorts to lead a team to work with a new owner of what became the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, a 700 room hotel on Waikiki Beach. The project included a $60 million dollar renovation and complete repositioning of the resort. The resort was successful in reopening as a non-Union property in a heavily unionized environment. Steve built a completely new management team that led that hotel to great success following the completion of the renovation.
The next chapter of Steve’s career took him to Wyndham Vacation Ownership, then known as Trendwest Resorts, in Redmond, Washington. There he became Director of Resort Services in 2004. During a ten plus year career at WVO, Steve was a Regional Director, then District Vice President, Operations and finally Director, Standards and Service Excellence for the nearly 200 resorts that make up WVO. In that role, Steve worked with cross-branded teams to maintain and improve the standards at all resorts, having input on everything that the guest sees, touches, feels or uses at the resorts. Working with Goodwell Technology, Steve managed the development and installation of the Guest High Speed Internet system for the 70 resorts of WorldMark the Club. This eventually grew to become ResortNet 2, the largest wireless high speed network in the Hospitality industry. It was designed from inception to generate sufficient revenues to sustain itself, thus lifting the expense burden of constantly changing technology. Steve also managed the major vendor relationships for WVO, as well as serving on over 20 Boards of Directors in resorts where WVO had an operating or ownership interest. Steve retired from WVO in 2014.
The next chapter of the story is Indigo Solutions. Indigo is a consulting company borne of a nearly 40 year career and the lessons learned from working with hundreds of talented and inspirational professionals from a rainbow of cultures, life and career experiences.
The current chapter is the development and construction of a 59-room, independently operated boutique hotel in Ellensburg, Washington, along with some truly wonderful partners. This hotel will become the centerpiece of a wonderful, historic, exciting downtown area that has come back to life over the past decade. The hotel will fill a void in a downtown that desperately needs an anchor hotel. The hotel will connect to the recently renovated, historic Elks Lodge building, making use of its iconic ballroom as the primary meeting space for the hotel. It is an exciting project, and will be managed by Indigo Solutions when it opens in late 2018.
Steve Townsend lives in Ellensburg, Washington with his wife Ruth.