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Top 10 Most Influential Business Leaders in the Hospitality Sector

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

The hospitality industry relies on visionary leadership to drive growth, innovation and success. Here are our top ten business leaders influencing the future of the global hospitality sector: Chris Nassetta, Federico J. González, Anthony Capuano, Dr. Jeffrey O, Satya Anand, Chip Conley, Patrick Pacious, Jonathan Tisch, Kit Kemp and Elie W. Maalouf. We have added Greg O'Hara as an additional hospitality leader worth mentioning.

Chris Nassetta | The Business Anecdote

1. Chris Nassetta

Chris Nassetta has been the President and CEO of Hilton since 2007, overseeing the company's global growth and expansion. Under his leadership, Hilton has grown from 2,800 properties to over 6,500 properties worldwide today. Its brand portfolio has also expanded to 18 brands.

Nassetta prioritized investments in technology advancements like the Hilton Honors app and Digital Key. He championed Hilton's sustainability efforts, including programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce waste, and implement responsible construction. He also launched innovative partnerships, like the collaboration with Lyft to allow riders to book and access Hilton hotel rooms directly via the Lyft app.


Nassetta was names "CEO of the Year" by Chief Executive magazine in 2020. he serves on numerous boards and executive committees, including World Travel & Tourism Council, Business Roundtable, and American Hotel & Lodging Association.

He frequently shares updates and insights with over 200K followers on LinkedIn regarding Hilton's growth, innovations, company culture and more. He is known for his charismatic leadership style, focus on innovation and customer experience, and passion for expanding Hilton's brands globally under a unified company culture.

Federico J. González | The Business Anecdote

2. Federico J. González

Federico J. González is the Executive Vice Chairman of Radisson Hotel Group. Prior to this, he was the President and CEO of Radisson Hotel Group up until May 2023. González joined Radisson in 2013 and was instrumental in the company’s rebranding from Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group to Radisson Hotel Group in 2018. He has led the revitalization and repositioning of Radisson as a contemporary, relevant hotel brand.


Under González’s leadership, Radisson Hotel Group has expanded its global portfolio to over 1,500 hotels in operation and under development. The company has targeted adding over 500 new hotels by 2025.

Expansion efforts are focused heavily on EMEA and APAC, with plans to double Radisson’s presence in China specifically. González also aims to grow the presence of Radisson’s upscale and lifestyle brands like Radisson Collection and Radisson RED.


González’s background includes over 25 years working with premier hospitality brands. He previously served as CEO of NH Hotels and held various executive roles within NH Hotel Group, Disneyland Paris and Ciga Hotels. Known for his hands-on leadership style, González has been instrumental in reinvigorating Radisson’s brand image and driving impressive growth. Under González’s strategic leadership, Radisson Hotel Group positioned itself to become a globally recognized hospitality brand. González is currently the Group CEO of Louvre Hotels Group, a role he started in May 2023.

Anthony Capuano | The Business Anecdote

3. Anthony Capuano

Anthony Capuano serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel company. He assumed the role in 2021 after a nearly 25-year career with Marriott.

As CEO, Capuano has focused on driving Marriott’s post-pandemic recovery and further growing its portfolio of over 8,000 properties across 139 countries. He has emphasized leveraging technology to enhance the guest experience and operational efficiency.


Capuano previously held roles as Marriott’s Global Chief Development Officer and Global Lodging Services Officer. He led the company’s global development efforts, overseeing a pipeline of over 500,000 rooms. Before joining Marriott in 1995, Capuano was a senior consultant with Laventhol & Horwath. He also served as VP of Owner Services for The Branard Company. Capuano earned his bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration from Cornell University. He serves on the American Hotel & Lodging Association Board of Directors.

Dr. Jeffrey O | The Business Anecdote

4. Dr. Jeffrey O

Dr. Jeffrey O is a renowned hospitality leader, educator, inspirational speaker, leadership coach, and author. Having been featured on the cover of many business and hospitality magazines, he is known as one of the influential leaders in the world of Hospitality. In addition to being the Chairman of the Board of Directors at St. Justine, he is also the president of the International Hospitality Institute (IHI) where he oversees global operations and organizes the annual Global Hospitality Summit (GHS).


Dr. Jeffrey O is an acclaimed author, with both fiction and non-fiction works to his name. Kirkus Reviews described his most recent thriller, Dead or Alive, as a “razor-sharp crime tale” and its protagonist as a “superlative hero.” Not only that, but Jeffrey is the inventor of the START Model™, a goal-setting and problem-solving tool designed for business professionals and coaches.


Dr. Jeffrey O previously served as the Chairman at Telacoach®. He has spent a good part of his career coaching executives in public speaking, executive presence, and strategic leadership.

Satya Anand | The Business Anecdote

5. Satya Anand

Satya Anand is the President for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Marriott International, where he is responsible for overseeing all business functions in the region, including operations, finance, human resources, legal, development, brands, sales and marketing. He provides strategic leadership for more than 998 hotels across 75 countries and territories.


Satya has been with Marriott International since 1988, when he started as a Night Auditor at the Vienna Marriott Hotel. Since then, he has held a number of leadership positions, including General Manager, Area Vice President in Western and Central Europe, Chief Financial Officer for Europe, and Board Member for AC by Marriott Hotels, of which he drove the performance of the brand in Spain and Italy in partnership with Antonio Catalan.


Most recently, Satya was Chief Operations Officer, Luxury & Southern Europe and Global Design EMEA, before his appointment as President, EMEA in 2020.

Originally from India, Satya graduated in Accounting from Bangalore MES College of Commerce. In 1988, he moved to Austria and completed his diploma in Hotel and Tourism Management from the International College of Tourism and Management, located in Semmering. Satya is currently based at Marriott International’s London regional office, residing between the UK and Vienna. In his free time, Satya enjoys playing tennis and golf with family and friends.

Chip Conley | The Business Anecdote

6. Chip Conley

Chip Conley is on a mission to revolutionize the hospitality industry a second time. After founding Joie de Vivre Hospitality, the second-largest operator of boutique hotels in the world, and then serving as Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, Conley co-founded Modern Elder Academy in January 2018. This academy is the first-ever ‘midlife wisdom school,’ and is dedicated to reframing the concept of aging. With over 3,000 alumni from 42 countries and 26 regional chapters, Modern Elder Academy is expanding to the United States with a new campus and regenerative community slated for Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2024.


Additionally, Conley is the recipient of hospitality’s highest honor, the Pioneer Award, and was named the Most Innovative CEO in the San Francisco Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times. He is the founder of the Celebrity Pool Toss that supports families in the Tenderloin neighbourhood, and the San Francisco’s Hotel Hero Awards. Furthermore, he serves on the board of Encore.org, and the advisory board for the Stanford Center for Longevity.

Patrick Pacious | The Business Anecdote

7. Patrick Pacious

Patrick Pacious has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Choice Hotels since January 2018. He is responsible for guiding the company’s strategic vision, growth, and performance.

Choice Hotels franchises over 7,400 hotels worldwide across its brand portfolio, including Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, and Ascend Hotel Collection. Under Pacious’s leadership, Choice has accelerated growth for its upscale Cambria Hotels brand, reaching over 100 locations.


Pacious joined Choice Hotels in 2005, bringing over 15 years of experience in finance, accounting, and consulting. He previously held executive roles as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer.

As CEO, Pacious has focused on expanding Choice’s digital capabilities and technology offerings. He oversaw the launch of AI-enabled revenue management platforms, self-service check-in, virtual voice assistants, and enhanced mobile apps.


In 2019, Choice launched Everhome Suites, a new extended stay concept targeting younger travelers. The brand represents one of Choice’s largest investments in decades. Revenues at Choice Hotels have grown to over $1 billion annually under Pacious’s leadership. In 2020, he managed through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting jobs and maintaining Choice’s financial strength.

Jonathan Tisch | The Business Anecdote

8. Jonathan Tisch

Jonathan Tisch serves as Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels. He is a member of the founding family of Loews Corporation, which owns and operates a portfolio of 24 luxury hotels and resorts.

As CEO since 1999, Tisch has overseen Loews Hotels’ growth and development, the launch of new brands, and enhancements to its guest loyalty program. He has expanded the brand’s presence on both coasts of the U.S. and into Canada. Tisch co-chairs the board of Loews Corp. with his cousin Andrew Tisch. Together, they led Loews Hotels through challenges like 9/11 and the 2008 recession while maintaining positive financial performance.


In addition to his role at Loews, Tisch is the Chairman of NYC & Company, New York City’s destination marketing organization. He also co-chairs the board of the Tribeca Film Festival and serves on boards for organizations like Robin Hood Foundation.

Active in philanthropy, Tisch funds initiatives focused on healthcare, education, and the arts. He also frequently promotes New York City tourism on social media channels including Instagram. Tisch is a co-owner of the New York Football Giants.


Kit Kemp | The Business Anecdote

9. Kit Kemp

Kit Kemp is an influential British interior designer and decor entrepreneur. As design director of Firmdale Hotels, Kemp injects her signature look of vibrant colors, rich textures, and playful patterns into boutique hotel interiors around the world.

Born in England in 1959, Kemp studied at the Kensington Design Centre. She began her career working for an antique dealer, which inspired her love of mixing vintage and contemporary pieces. Her aesthetic developed into a layered maximalist style full of whimsical detail.


In 1994, Kemp co-founded Firmdale Hotels with her husband Tim Kemp, bringing her design talent to hospitality. Her most famous interiors are at London's Kit Kemp-designed Crosby Street Hotel and The Whitby Hotel. Known as "joyful spaces," they feature Kemp's trademark floral wallpapers, custom-designed furniture, mosaic tile floors, and elaborate fabric combinations.


Beyond Firmdale, Kit Kemp has expanded into product design, partnering with various brands over the years to create fabric, wallpaper, rug, lighting, and furniture collections. Companies such as Christie's, Lee Jofa, and Larsen have all collaborated with Kemp to produce lifestyle products featuring her sense of colour and pattern.


An influential tastemaker, Kemp has been widely featured and honoured for her contributions to interior design. She received an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 2011. Her recognizable signature style combines vintage English quirkiness with contemporary cosmopolitan flair. Kemp continues to oversee design at Firmdale while growing her product business and remaining an iconic presence in the design world.

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Elie W. Maalouf | The Business Anecdote

10. Elie W. Maalouf

In July 2023, Elie was appointed Chief Executive Officer of IHG. Prior to this, Elie had served as Chief Executive Officer, Americas since February 2015. He is responsible for the executive oversight of the Group, and for ensuring that Board strategy and policy are implemented.


Before joining IHG, Elie was President and Chief Executive Officer of HMSHost Corporation for six years, where he was also a member of the board of directors. Elie has a diverse global experience, encompassing hotel development, branding, finance, real estate, operations management, and food and beverage. He was a Senior Advisor with McKinsey & Company from 2012 to 2014.


Elie is a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association Executive Committee of the Board, and the U.S. Travel Association CEO Roundtable, and participates in organizations that promote the travel and hospitality industries. He is also a member of the Global Advisory Council at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, and a board member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress.


Top 10 Most Influential Business Leaders in the Hospitality Sector | The Business Anecdote
 

Worth mentioning


Greg O'Hara | The Business Anecdote

Greg O'Hara

Greg O’Hara is the founder and Senior Managing Director of Certares, a private equity firm focused on investments in the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors. O’Hara established Certares in 2012 in partnership with management from prominent travel companies. Under his leadership, Certares has deployed over $3 billion of equity capital across platforms in hospitality tech, travel distribution, hotels, destinations services, and other verticals.


Prior to founding Certares, O’Hara served as Chief Investment Officer at JPMorgan Chase's Special Investments Group. He was responsible for over $1 billion in private equity investments for the firm.

O’Hara currently serves on the boards of Internova, Travel Leaders Group, American Express Global Business Travel, and other hospitality companies. He previously held board positions with Travelport, Galileo International, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

In 2016, O’Hara was inducted into the Business Travel Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions and leadership in business travel. With over 25 years of executive experience in travel investment, O’Hara brings deep expertise and strategic vision to Certares’ hospitality private equity portfolio. His leadership continues to transform the industry.


Conclusion

Together, these diverse industry leaders are shaping the future of the hospitality sector through their vision, investments, and passion for hospitality. Their influence propels the industry’s ongoing innovation and financial success.

Top 10 Most Influential Business Leaders in the Hospitality Sector | The Business Anecdote

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