Loews Hotels CEO optimistic on return of group events to help complete Covid travel recovery

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Loews Hotels CEO Jonathan Tisch told CNBC on Friday that he sees indications that large events will return soon, a key piece of the hospitality industry’s recovery from coronavirus pandemic-induced woes.

“We are starting to see groups come back. We are very optimistic about group business in Q3, Q4, next year in 2022,” Tisch said in an interview on “Power Lunch.” “We’re starting to see investment banks book a couple of our hotels with big meetings. That is very optimistic.”

After the pandemic brought travel in the U.S. largely to a halt last spring, the resumption of activity has largely been concentrated among people taking leisure trips, Tisch noted. However, business travel and group events like conventions and conferences are crucial for airlines and the hospitality sector.

“We probably won’t see a return to business travel numbers that we’re going to be pleased with until after Labor Day. International [travel] is a big question … and these events are real important,” said Tisch, who also is co-chairman of Loews Corp. Loews Hotels is a subsidiary of the New York-based conglomerate.

The continued rollout of Covid vaccinations in the U.S., where 100 million people have now been fully inoculated, according to CDC data, is considered critical for those sizable events to return in earnest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends “avoiding large events and gatherings,” according to its website. The public health agency earlier this week relaxed its guidance for fully vaccinated Americans and small gatherings.

Large events are already taking place, or are scheduled to be held soon, in some parts of the U.S., such as Texas and Las Vegas, Tisch noted, but it’s geographically uneven.

“When you look at the numbers in New York, we’re getting there but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Tisch, also a co-owner of the NFL’s New York Giants.

“We think, when you can hopefully have an event like the U.S. Open with fans, when can you have the U.N. General Assembly with participants, when you can have the New York City Marathon with 35,000 runners, that’s going to be the moment when we know we’re back.”

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