Jonathan Tisch, chairman/CEO, Loews Hotels & Co., urged travel and hospitality leaders to take the lead on critical issues facing the industry and the country—from deepening societal divides to technology’s impact on business travel—in keynote remarks at the 43rd annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.
Tisch emphasized the important role travel and hospitality can play in addressing societal division. “Too often, today’s public discourse descends into tribalism,” said Tisch. “I believe travel can be an antidote to our worrisome state of affairs. It can pull us out of our digital cul-de-sacs by exposing people to new cultures and new experiences. It can help break down prejudices, bridge cultural division, breed civility and foster greater understanding.”
Speaking on the same day the U.S. reopened its borders to millions of international vaccinated travelers, Tisch also touted travel and hospitality’s remarkable resilience despite the pandemic’s devastating impact. “Domestic leisure travel has already come back strong—exceeding pre-pandemic levels in recent months. International travelers are eager to return to our country and we are ready to welcome them.” Tisch noted international flight bookings to the U.S. have already reached 70% of pre-pandemic levels.
Still, Tisch said that the pandemic has surfaced several critical issues the industry must address.
Though optimistic about business travel’s recovery, Tisch urged travel leaders to consider the ripple effects of potential long-term shifts in corporate travel, citing data showing business leaders plan to spend less on travel post-pandemic.
At the same time, he argued technology and changing models of work can create new opportunities for travel. “During COVID, millions of people learned they can work from anywhere,” Tisch said. “If workers don’t need to be in the office, how can the industry encourage them to stretch out vacations, work away from home while spending time with family, and enable them to be just as productive?”
Tisch also underlined the urgent need to create equitable opportunities and develop diverse talent for leadership positions. “Our industry faces an unprecedented labor shortage,” he said. “Top talent has great power to decide where they will build a future career. If travel and hospitality is to be an employer of choice, our industry must make progress—to incentivize, recruit and develop a diverse range of talented team members and leaders.”