From his start buying a modest property
on Orlando’s International Drive 45 years
ago to building an empire comprised of
eight hotels and 6,700 rooms in the destination, Rosen has a steely resolve that lets
him compete against the big chains.
At the same time, he has also championed a revolutionary health program for
his employees and generously gives back to
the community in which he operates.
Meetings Today recently caught up with
Rosen to ask him about his past, present
and the future of his company and CSR
What made you buy that first hotel?
My decision to begin my entrepreneurial
journey and purchase my first hotel in 1974
was born out of my desire for freedom from
the corporate bureaucracy that I experienced early on in my career.
I served in the U.S. Army and must
confess that I thrive on regimentation and
discipline. I understand and value the concept of chain of command and “following
orders,” but realized that if I was going to
achieve any real success in my career, I
needed to be the ultimate decision maker.
Weren’t you nervous about the
economy in the ’70s, including the
gas crisis, after you bought your
I was of course concerned with the oil embargo. However, in hindsight I consider the
situation to be a blessing because it provided me with an opportunity to purchase my
first small property.
I remember so clearly driving along
International Drive and seeing a small
Quality Inn with excellent access on International Drive and Sand Lake Road and a
very prominent location right off I- 4. The
location certainly intrigued me, so I decided to park at the property and take a look.
I loved what I saw and decided to inquire
at the front desk to see if I could speak with
the general manager or owner of the prop-
erty. The owner greeted me, and when I
indicated that I had an interest in acquiring
the property, he immediately hugged me
and said that God had sent me.
He readily handed me the keys to what
would be my home for the next 17 years.
I invested my life savings of $20,000 and
soon thereafter broke down and cried,
wondering if I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
What gave you that faith?
Faith has always been a big part of my life.
I truly believed that dedication, hard work,
respect for others and a passion for success
would one day translate into something
special for my family and me.
As fate would have it, not long after the
oil embargo was lifted and people began
to travel once again. My early alliance and
very close relationship with the motor
coach industry provided us with ample visitors and paved the way for a bright future.
How did you know that your hotels
would be successful on I-Drive,
specifically Rosen Plaza and
Rosen Centre, and why were you
so compelled to purchase the land
next to the convention center and
build your first convention hotels
when no big brand wanted to do it?
I had an innate sense that Orlando would one
day become a major convention destination
despite very little support from the hospitality
industry. Gradual, deliberate expansion over
Harris Rosen, president and owner of Rosen Hotels & Resorts,
has become something
of a living legend in the
Florida hotel community.
BY JENNIFER JUERGENS
GIVE KIDS THE WORLD CHARITY EVENT
A Florida hotel icon
shares his motivations
and secrets of success
HARRIS ROSEN // PRESIDENT AND OWNER
ROSEN HOTELS & RESORTS