Ian Schrager: “I Don’t Believe in Paradigm Shifts”
Boutique hotelier Ian Schrager—founder of Ian Schrager Company and the mind behind brands including EDITION Hotels, in partnership with Marriott, and PUBLIC—is "quite convinced" of the industry's inevitable return to normalcy. "Not a new normal, but the same norm that we've always had. It's just a question of when."
In March, Schrager's PUBLIC hotel in New York City shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Schrager said it was the first time in his career that he was forced to shut down a property. "It's very dangerous—once you have a breathing, living, heart-beating business—to shut it down," Schrager said. "It was a heartbreaker for me, but I had no choice, and we still haven't reopened. I'm not really enthusiastic about opening until people feel safe traveling again, which is what it's going to take."
Despite the severity of the pandemic, Schrager is confident that travel will return eventually. "Change is the essence of the universe and all downcycles are different, but I'm quite convinced that they all wind up in the same place: A return to normalcy," Schrager said. "There may be some adjustments that we have to make, but I don't believe in paradigm shifts. I don't think all the pundits really know what they're talking about because there's no precedent and there's no frame of reference to use—it's just all conjecture."
When Falik asked about how the shift toward remote work amid the COVID-19 pandemic would impact the hotel industry, Schrager said that the introduction of fax machines, cell phones, and the internet also raised concerns over whether the new technology would spell an end to business travel or meetings and events. "I've heard it many times over the last 30-40 years that I've been in the business, and each advance does have an impact, but it's not the death knell," he said. "Things are going to be changing somewhat because of the new technology. We have to respond to that. But it's not the end of group and business travel and will have little to no effect, I don't think, on leisure travel."