Exclusive With Jonathan Tisch: First Interview Since Returning as CEO of Loews Hotels

Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels

Following the departure of Kirk Kinsell last week, Jonathan Tisch has resumed the role of CEO of Loews Hotels, and Luxury Travel Advisor caught up with him in London, getting his first interview.  “I’m excited to be back as CEO,” said Tisch, who shared his ambitious plans for Loews Hotels, “we hope to double the number of Loews Hotels properties by 2020.”

On a growth streak, Loews has expanded its portfolio by 40 percent since 2012, going from 18 to 25 hotels, adding key markets and building new brands.  “We’ll be continuing that trajectory in 2017, not just from an acquisition and development perspective, we are also "re-launching” our three brands, renovating and enhancing hotels, opening new F&B options, and elevating  the guest experience with innovation and technology,” Tisch explained. Keeping everything fresh has been a priority at Loews, since 2012, 90 percent of all the properties have undergone major renovations, with large scale refurbs at Loews Ventana in Tucson, Loews Santa Monica, Loews Miami Beach and a complete renovation of the flagship Loews Regency in New York.

For the past three decades, Tisch had been building, shaping and leading Loews Hotels, but in 2012 he took a step aside and brought in veteran hotelier Paul Whestell as CEO, while remaining chairman of Loews Hotels and co-chairman of the board and member of the office of the president of Loews Corporation. After Whetsell retired in 2015, Kinsell followed as CEO. Now, in a Godfather-like return, Tisch is back at the helm, doing what he loves best, leading the portfolio of 25 properties and building the company’s three brands: Loews Hotels & Resorts, Loews Regency and the new OE Collection.

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Tisch is one of the most admired and respected CEOs in the hotel business, a passionate advocate on behalf the travel and tourism industry, Tisch serves as chairman emeritus of the U.S. Travel Association, he also served for six years as chairman of NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism agency, and was chairman of New York Rising, a task force committed to reviving tourism in New York City after the September 11 attacks.  Tisch was in London last week with his other passion, the New York Giants (he is co-owner of the NFL team).

As for the next five years, Tisch anticipates Loews growing to an estimated 50 hotels, “This would include purchases and new builds under all three of our flags, Loews Hotels & Resorts, Loews Regency and the OE, Collection. Next year we will add our first OE, Collection Hotel, Bisha Hotel & Residences, a 100-room property in Toronto.”  The new OE brand,  with the “O” and “E” representing Original Experiences, will ultimately be a collection of independent properties, featuring top class service, in urban and resort destinations. 

Another new market Loews is excited about: Seattle. Tisch was headed there after London to check the model rooms for the Hotel 1000, which they bought in January and will rebrand as a Loews Regency in 2017. Located along Elliott Bay, very near Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, and historic Pioneer Square, many of the hotel’s 120 guestrooms boast fab water views, which Loews will refresh, along with the spa and restaurant as part of the conversion to Loews Regency, the company’s luxury brand, offering warm and sophisticated style, which originated with the iconic Loews Regency in New York.

Orlando is a booming market for Loews, where the company has five themed resorts all on the grounds of Universal Orlando Resort at varying price points, each with exclusive perks, ranging from early admission to express passes for guests to enjoy Universal Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Orlando and City Walk.  “Our resorts are running over 90 percent occupancy in Orlando,” said Tisch, and he attributes the incredible success to their 15-year partnership with Comcast NBC Universal, whose innovative new attractions and additions to the theme parks (think: Harry Potter) continue to drive travelers to the area year round.  The latest, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando, opened this past July, featuring a tropical island theme with 1,000 rooms and suites surrounding a 16,000 square foot pool, two sand beaches and a water slide, bringing Loews total to 5,200 guestrooms on site.  Plans are also in the works to add 400 more rooms to Cabana Bay Beach Resort, a three-star retro-inspired hotel complex with two pools, bowling and a food court, which opened in 2014.

Further south in Florida, Loews is finishing a $50 million refurb of the Loews Miami Beach, which Tisch is particularly enthusiastic about, “When we first opened almost 18 years ago, we knew this hotel was going to shape South Beach, create more convention business, reposition the area as family-friendly and bring other hotel brands to the destination. Years later, the hotel and destination continue to thrive and expand, but with our unparalleled location on Collins Avenue, and now this renovation: new guestrooms, renovated public spaces, including a new pool area with more cabanas, and a new kids camp, Loews Miami is still a leader in South Beach.”

Other big news for travel agents is the recent appointment of Christine Lawson as senior vice president of Loews Hotels Sales Organization, who will oversee all aspects of sales for Loews Hotels & Resorts, Loews Regency Hotels and the OE Collection. Tisch said he is thrilled to have Lawson aboard after her 20-plus year tenure running sales at Kimpton Hotels.

Loews Hotels Growth

2012 –  8,295  rooms in 18 hotels

2016 – 11,568 rooms in 25 hotels

Recent additions:

2012    Loews Hollywood, 628 rooms

2013    Loews Madison, 356 rooms

2013    Loews Boston, 222 rooms

2014    Loews Minneapolis, 251 rooms

2014    Loews Chicago O’Hare, 556 rooms

2014    Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Orlando,1,800 rooms

2015    Loews Chicago, 400 rooms

2015    Loews Regency San Francisco,148 rooms

2016    Hotel 1000, Seattle to become Loews Regency in 2017, 120 rooms

 

2016    Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Orlando, 1,000 rooms

2017    Bisha Hotel & Residences, OE Collection, Toronto, 100 rooms

2017    Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Orlando — expansion — additional 400 rooms

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