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By Stephanie Deutsch ’18 and Verity Sylvester ’19
From the fabric of the chairs to the shape of the lamps, Jonathan Tisch is involved in even the most minute design decisions for Loews Hotels. As Co-Chairman of the Board of Loews Corporation and Chairman and CEO of its subsidiary, Loews Hotels & Co., Tisch’s passion for best-in-class hospitality has empowered the growth of Loews into an empire of 24 hotels in the US and Canada, with a number of new hotels under development. During his keynote address at the Columbia Business School Real Estate Symposium, Tisch, who was named “Hotelier of the World” by Hotels Magazine, shared his thoughts on the hotel business, the future of hospitality and the growth opportunities for Loews Hotels & Co.
When describing the Loews approach to the hotel business, Tisch remarked, “Others do it really well, we just do it our way.” The Tisch way of business has developed over 70 years with three generations of family members at the helm. It all started in 1935 when Tisch’s grandparents, Al and Sayde, purchased a summer camp in New Jersey. After the family successfully operated it for several years, Tisch’s father and uncle learned of an opportunity to purchase a nearby hotel in Lakewood, NJ. Even in the very early years, managing risk was a core philosophy in their investment strategy. They figured that if they could run a summer camp, they could apply the same skillset and run a hotel. Their instincts paid off, and their hotel business flourished with additional purchases in the Catskills and New Jersey, and eventually Florida and New York City where the Loews Regency landmark resides.
Tisch grew up in hotels, and even called himself “the male Eloise,” so it’s no surprise that in 1989 he took over the family hotel business. Whether it is leading a $100 million-dollar renovation at the Loews Regency in New York, developing hotels at Universal Orlando Resort or expanding the hotel company into new destinations, Tisch is bringing the Loews business to new heights. Throughout his tenure, Tisch has witnessed the dramatic shift in the business of hotels, noting that hotel investment has become a very sophisticated and global business. When investing in hotels, Tisch looks for immersive destinations with nearby demand generators like retail centers, concert venues and other entertainment outlets. The Live! by Loews hotel concept, in partnership with the Cordish Companies’ Live! brand, is an example of how Loews is creating a new hospitality experience that benefits from these entertainment districts. There are already two hotels being developed under this new concept, including a hotel adjacent to the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and another adjacent to the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. This new concept is in line with the consumer shift from a desire for materialism to experiences. Tisch notes, “People are saying—do I really need another sweater, or would I prefer another experience?—and they are leaning towards experiences so that they can come home and talk about it with their friends and family.”
Although Tisch declared that the decade between 2009-2019 will have been “the best ten years ever in its history” for the hospitality industry, he also expressed future concerns, including oversupply, rising expenses, dampened international travel and overpriced assets. Tisch remains proactive in his approach to competitive pressures by reinvesting in existing properties, developing new hotels instead of purchasing high-priced assets, and continuing to invest in hotels with large meeting spaces to entice more group bookings. Even with the rise of Airbnb, Tisch believes that the hotel industry is at a point where they understand them, saying “We know what they do, and we work with our elected officials to make sure they understand their responsibilities, just like we do.” Despite these competitive pressures, Tisch is confident that the business of hotels will continue to strengthen: “I believe in the future of the lodging industry; it’s in good shape for now.”
Stephanie Deutsch ’18 is a Los Angeles native and second-year student focusing on real estate investment and development at Columbia Business School. This past summer, Stephanie interned in the hotel investment group at Brookfield Asset Management. After graduating with a degree in Business Studies and Art History at New York University, Stephanie spent four years working in product development and global marketing at L’Oréal. In addition to her role as VP of Alumni & Mentorship in the Real Estate Association, she also serves as the President of the Hospitality and Travel Association.
Verity Sylvester ’19 is the AVP of Site Tours for the Real Estate Association at Columbia Business School. She is a first-year student focusing on real estate development and finance. Verity previously worked for Manulife Real Estate based in Toronto in asset management and development functions.