By Ellen Meyer
August 11, 2020
Offering leadership advice at the 2020 AAHOA Virtual Convention and Trade Show taking place this week from Aug. 11-13 was industry legend Harris Rosen, Florida’s largest independent hotelier and president and CEO of Rosen Hotels and Resorts. Rosen, who purchased his first hotel during a different crisis—that of the 1973-1974 oil embargo—says the current crisis is the worst he’s ever seen in 46 years in the industry. Nevertheless, he offered his thoughts on living and leading through this present time by focusing more on the human than business side of recovery and making plans for and having faith in the future.
Rosen’s overarching advice—“Do the best you can”—could well serve as a mantra for this time, just as it has served him well throughout his long and successful career in the industry. He leveraged a degree from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration and positions at the Waldorf Astoria, Hilton Hotel Corporation, and Disney to build a portfolio, starting with that first Quality Inn in Orlando and eventually spanning nine hotels with 6,694 guestrooms. And he’s paid his good fortune forward, with numerous and diverse philanthropic ventures that include donating the land for the Rosen College of Hospitality at the University of Central Florida and creating the Tangelo Park education program for underserved children from pre-K through trade school or college.
“During these difficult times, it’s important not to give up. Don’t let this interfere with your future plans, whatever they may be.”
What doing the best you can when faced with challenges beyond your control means in practice, he explains, is finding ways to deal with the present and plan for the future—for example, decide whether to keep a hotel open or to close it, then create a pro forma based on that decision.
According to Rosen, leadership and investment take on different meanings in the face of a deadly virus. “Leading at a time of high anxiety and uncertainty is difficult. This is the time to invest in your people—let them know how much you admire and need them. They will appreciate it forever. We don’t know what the future holds, but we can strive to create an environment where our associates feel respected and valued, and our guests feel safe and cared for.” For that reason, in addition to adhering to social distance and sanitizing guidelines, guests as well as employees are screened before entering the hotel.
It is Rosen’s hope and expectation that the current scenario is a one-off, and suggests looking ahead to a rosier future. “During these difficult times, it’s important not to give up. Don’t let this interfere with your future plans, whatever they may be. My advice is, do the best you can now, then pretend it never happened.”