Aaron Greenman of Auro Hotels on Greenville’s role in Auro’s future and the importance of authenticity
This isn’t the first time that newly appointed Greenville-based Aaron Greenman Auro ‘Hotels new executive vice president of investments and development, worked for the family business Rama.
In his first stint, Greenman helped launch AURO University in Surat, India, which is also home to a pair of Auro hotel properties. “But, my association with the Rama family dates back to the mid-90s when DJ [Rama] and I attended [Cornell] University, together, ”says Greenman. A true citizen of the world (Greenman has lived and worked on multiple continents), he brings a wealth of perspective and experience to the oversight and growth of Auro Hotel’s investment portfolio.
So, what brought you back to Auro?
Well, friendship, to be honest. I think this is a very important part of the story compared to Auro. For a number of reasons both personal and professional, DJ [Rama] and I started talking last year to come back. And to be honest, without a DJ and the Rama family, I wouldn’t be here. It is largely a reflection of my respect for them and my friendship with them that I am here.
What do you do as Executive Vice President of Investment and Development on a day-to-day basis?
In a hotel company, there are really two aspects: the day-to-day operation of hotels (of which I am not an expert) and the other side which is… you are in a building. A building with walls, systems, land and utilities. My role is to focus on this non-operational side – looking at our existing hotels, understanding what they are, what they need for the future and how to maintain and improve that value. Then there is the growth part – finding new opportunities, building and acquiring.
It sounds like a huge job …
[Laughs] I just take it one day at a time …
What role does Greenville play in Auro’s plans?
I think it is still too early for me to answer. But, I’ll say this: Greenville and Auro go together like bacon and eggs. The Rama have been there since the 1970s, the company has always been based here and Greenville will forever be seen as Auro’s home market. That’s who Auro is, in many ways.
How has COVID-19 changed the conversation about future growth and development?
I don’t think COVID fundamentally changes considerations when we’re looking to grow taller. We always look at the fundamentals: is there the kind of demand we need to be able to build or acquire this hotel and make it a success? Do the numbers work? And it is extremely important to never deviate from these fundamentals. I think the part that has changed is understanding how things change. We know the small ways things have changed, but we always answer the big questions.
Where does Greenville shine?
I have to warn – I have been away from the United States for quite some time and have not paid special attention to American cities. But whether a city is a business destination, a tourist destination or a place to live… the most difficult thing to convey is authenticity. If you have it and are recognized for it, supporting it is extremely important. I have the impression that Greenville is perceived as authentic and its efforts with its downtown area, for example – on a human scale, pedestrianized – reinforce this authenticity.
You have lived all over the world … which cities reflect this authenticity?
There aren’t many, actually. If you look at a city like Brussels… I love Brussels because it is an extremely authentic city, authenticity is not its problem. Traditionally, it’s a bit dysfunctional on the political side. It is not necessarily the cleanest or the most beautiful city. But, for those who live there, its neighborhoods are quite authentic. He’s not trying to be something he’s not. They love their cuisine, their traditions… their chocolate, their beer, their comics. It is their heritage. In the long term… when tourists or business travelers come to Brussels, they know what they want to experience. It is a place with real character.
How many countries have you lived or worked in?
Let’s see… there is the United States, Belgium, France, India, Kenya… there are a few countries in the Middle East, South Korea. Almost all the countries of Europe. And yet, I have only worked for three or four companies in my career.
Born in Chicago… raised in Miami.
White Sox or Cubs? Bears or dolphins?
[Laughs] Hurricanes. My parents were professors at the University of Miami. I spent my entire childhood attending University of Miami football games. I dabbled in the Miami Heat. But if anything, it was those Cannes football matches.
English and French.
You mentioned that you attended Cornell University, an Ivy League school …
I went to Cornell for a Masters… Master of Management and Hospitality with a specialization in Real Estate Finance. For my undergrad, I was majoring in art history at Amherst College.
So you are this mix of creativity and business.
I have a parallel career as a photographer. It is an outlet. Always… since my teenage years. My first love.
Your favorite place to shoot?
India. There is no place in the world like India. It’s the color, the sounds, the smells, the people and the chaos.
Discover Greenman’s photography at acuitycolorgrain.com