HB ON THE SCENE: At NYU, Jonathan Tisch Urges Hoteliers to Strengthen Talent Pipeline

NEW YORK—Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels & Co., today urged travel and hospitality leaders to fill their talent pipelines to sustain strong industry growth during keynote remarks at the 41st annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.

“We are in the midst of a decade-long travel boom,” said Tisch. But he reminded the audience of Intel founder Andy Grove’s famous maxim: “Only the paranoid survive—and I believe the best time to be paranoid is when times have been good, like today,” said Tisch. He underscored that the travel industry has over one million job openings in a time of historic U.S. unemployment, making recruiting and retaining talent top-of-mind for every industry CEO.

“The good news is we have a great story to tell when it comes to the opportunities our jobs create,” said Tisch. To build a strong pipeline and keep the industry’s momentum going, Tisch highlighted three critical areas for industry leadership and focus: immigration, diversity and inclusion, and the smart integration of new technologies into the workplace.

Tisch first highlighted the historic role immigration has played as a source for industry talent. “We’re extremely proud of that record,” said Tisch. “Immigrants make our industry—and our country—stronger.” He called on travel and hospitality leaders to push for “a rational, coherent immigration policy,” calling it “vital to the industry’s success.”

Criticizing the current political climate and unwillingness to compromise on the issue despite areas of alignment between Republicans and Democrats, he called on industry leaders to “weigh in with your elected officials. Tell them why finding a solution to immigration is crucial to our industry. Let them know you see compromise as an act of leadership. And that it’s time to get the job done.”

Second, Tisch made the case for making diversity and inclusion a core business strategy rather than something relegated to a CSR Role. He cited a McKinsey & Company study that found companies ranking high on gender and ethnic diversity are significantly more likely to outperform their peers.

Tisch also argued that members of Generation Z have grown up in a more diverse society and that young professionals especially value and expect diversity in the workplace. “To recruit and retain future employees, we need to make diversity and inclusion a reality at every level of our organizations and we must be seen as an employer of choice,” said Tisch.

Finally, he called for creative strategies to integrate innovative technologies into the travel and hospitality industry. Citing a recent Pew Research Center report, Tisch noted that 42% of industry workers fear losing their job to automation. Pointing out the balance that must be struck between automation and high-quality, personalized service, Tisch recommended working closely with employees on technology integration: “Specifically, we need to ask, how can technology free-up our team members from more mundane tasks—and allow them to focus their energies on high value-added service that only humans can deliver.”

Tisch emphasized that these three issues are not challenges to be overcome, but opportunities to be seized for the entire industry. “Working together we can shape our own future, lifting travel and hospitality to new levels of growth and prosperity.”

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