Earlier this year, we told you that longtime hotel executive Paul Whetsell would become the new president and CEO for Loews Hotels, succeeding Jack Adler, who retired. Since he took the helm in mid-January, the former board member at Virgin Hotels and founder of Capstar Hotel Company has been living a whirlwind first three months, but he found time in his busy schedule to talk with Lodging Editor Len Vermillion about his plans for the future of the company.
1. Len Vermillion: You’re known as a hotel acquisition veteran. What do you think your experience brings to Loews Hotels?
Paul Whetsell: I think the fit is because I’ve been fortunate enough to grow companies, but I’m also an operator. At CapStar we were originally an owner and operator of hotels. It started as a management company and morphed into a real estate company. We ran 300 hotels. I think the fit and mutual interest with Loews is that it is an owner and operator. They are a branded company. I was excited to take it to the next level both in terms of growth and expanding our customer base. Hopefully, we’ll do that in a manner that is financially successful and allows for the maximizing of returns.
2. LV: That being said, what is your plan and how do you see growth happening for Loews?
PW: The two primary focuses are to grow our distribution by adding properties in locations where we feel it is important for the Loews brand to be represented. We’re not in Boston, Washington, Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco. We want representation in there. We want to provide the opportunity for the Loews guest to stay in those destinations. The other is to expand our existing base. Loews has done a wonderful job in many of its properties of attracting the group business. My intent is to make it the hotel of choice for the corporate traveler as well.
3. LV: How will you make it the hotel of choice for the business traveler, and can we expect the same type of hotels from Loews?
PW: When we grow we will look for hotels that are corporate hotels in addition to the group hotels that we have. As we look at an opportunity going forward, not only will we look at the prototypically Loews hotel, we’ll look at a hotel that has 250 to 300 rooms that’s maybe only getting 15 to 20 percent of its business through the group market. We can attract more corporate customers through that type of hotel located in a strategic market.
Sometimes you have to change your offerings. We also want to make it more conducive for corporate travelers to plug in their laptops in our lobbies and things of that nature. It’s just changes in the direction. Our existing hotels should have a better offering for our corporate travelers.
4. LV: You have been quoted as saying you want to clarify the brand. Can you expand on that?
PW: If you look at the type of brands we have, we have three distinct brands. There’s Loews Regency in New York, which is four-and-a-half star, operating in the luxury segment. The luxury customer expects a certain level of accommodation and service. The second type we have is our group properties, both resorts and urban. The third type is the corporate hotel. We want to make sure the consumer, when he goes to each one of those hotels, has some commonality of the Loews experience, particularly in customer service. But, some of the offerings may be different so it’s not a one size fits all. To me that’s how you better define the brand. They understand that we have different types of offerings but we are hopefully going to better identify the offerings to the consumer.