Interview: Anthony MelchiorriMatt Dougherty and Stacy Shoemaker Rauen • September 12, 2018
You may recognize as the globetrotting host of the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible, but his impressive career started in a much more humble place. As a child, his mother’s boyfriend would take to the small hotel he owned in Florida. “There was something about the keys behind the desk,” he says. “It just attracted me, the way the whole system worked.” While enlisted in the air force, Melchiorri found work at the Embassy Suites in Kansas City’s Overland Park area, taking care of the rooms occupied by colonels and generals. He eventually moved to New York and became the night manager then director of operations at the Plaza Hotel.
After stints at various properties, including the Algonquin Hotel and Tishman Hotels, Melchiorri eventually founded Argeo Hospitality. When he first came up with the idea of making a TV show about the hotel business, he pitched his toughest critic: his wife. “’Who the hell wants to see you on TV?’” Melchiorri recalls her saying. But he persisted. “I worked my ass off and I got a TV show,” he adds. Below, he gives us his meditations on travel, TV, and design.
Along with Hilton, Yeddalin hosted the , where we tasked 12 world-class firms with creating the luxury guestroom of the future. You were a judge alongside Queer Eye‘s Bobby Berk, Larry Traxler of Hilton, and Maurice Perry from Perrysketch. What did you like about being a part of this inaugural challenge?
The ability to be around people who don’t see things the way most people do was one. I didn’t realize until I got involved that my favorite people are creative people. Every single person [there] oozed creativity. [They] have a different way of being competitive.
What did you like about the winning design from Toronto firm Chapi Chapo?
It was creative and clean. You didn’t walk into that box and say, ‘Wow, this is the most creative thing I’ve ever seen.’ But you walked into it saying ‘this works, this is clean, and wow, I’ve never seen a TV done like that, I’ve never seen a pole like that.’ Everything you saw was understated creativity.
What did you want to portray with Hotel Impossible?
There are medical shows, cop shows, fireman shows, but there are no hotel shows. Everybody thinks of hotels as a front desk clerk handing a key to a client, and I wanted to show that there are designers, architects, dolphin trainers, chefs, housekeepers, etc. There are very intelligent, creative, passionate people bringing together your experience. I wanted to show [people] that if you want to do anything in this world, you can find a job in the hotel business to do it.
Any interesting stories seen on the show?
One day we were in Darcy, Pennsylvania, and we realized that the gentleman that owned the hotel had an alcohol problem, and his son had an opioid problem. Before the end of the show, we threw out the Hotel Impossible concept and basically went into an intervention. In two days, we got them in rehab. We hired a GM, we renovated the hotel, and to this day they are clean and the hotel’s doing well. The show is about [building a] decent hotel business, but it’s also about humanity.
You also have a couple new TV projects in the works with the Travel Channel.
We just finished a show called Five Star Secrets, where we went to the best hotels in the world, including Millennium in Chicago, theOne&Only in Cabo, the Carlton in New York, and many others. We [also] did a show called Extreme Hotels, where we went to the most extreme hotels in the world. I can’t talk about the new show we’re pitching just yet. I’ll just say it’s groundbreaking television. There are two networks interested, and we’re going out to California next week. Hopefully, that will be on air relatively soon.
What have been some of your greatest lessons learned?
Everybody’s been through a war and everybody has a story, and it costs you nothing to listen and be nice to people. I learned that fancy suits, money, cars, and TV shows don’t make people successful. What makes people successful is the work they put in when the doors close and nobody’s watching. The harder you work, the luckier you get.
Do you have a mantra while on the job?
My biggest concern in life is that I’d be a minute late and I’d disappoint you. If you’re running a business and you’re growing, every person you meet and [every person who] depends on you matters.
What destinations have excited you most over the years?
Going to Vietnam, I didn’t know what to expect. Meeting the people and [experiencing] their hospitality was overwhelmingly emotional for me. They were so humble and so respectful. They were people trying to do the best thing for their family, and they greeted us with open arms.
But if you ask me one place that just blew my brains out, there’s a treehouse in Peru that is on the Amazon—it takes forever to get there. It’s a two-hour boat ride down the Amazon, then a quarter mile walk into the forest, then 10 stories up on a rope bridge, then another eighth of a mile on a rope bridge into your hotel room, and then another three stories into the treehouse. It’s a 4-Star luxury treehouse. Crazy.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m doing coursework for Cornell. I’m also coming out with a line of bath amenities for hotels that will be hitting the market by the end of the year. And lastly, I’m going to Portugal [to help a] community of hotels get to the next level.