Michael Allen Leven, also known as Mike, has served the hospitality industry for more than 50 years. Throughout his career, Mike has garnered nearly every award and recognition one can receive in the hotel industry, and he’s recognized by many as an industry icon and an innovative pioneer. In 2014, AH&LA presented Leven with a lifetime achievement award at the annual Americas Lodging Investment Conference.
Mike grew up in a modest 3-family home in Boston, and attended a tough, inner-city high school. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Tufts University, and a Master of Science degree in public relations and communications from Boston University. In 1961, Mike landed his first position in the industry as the sales promotion manager of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, where he earned $495 per month, free lunch, and the promise of a $40 per month retirement pension after 40 years of service.
After the Roosevelt, Mike moved into the operations side of hotel management with the Dunphy Company. After 23 years in various marketing and operations positions, Mike landed his first presidency with Americana Hotels & Realty in 1984, a position that didn’t last that long because the company sold out the assets shortly after he arrived. In 1985, Mike was recruited to serve as President of Days Inn Corporation, his first long term presidency, and he led the company through a reorganization resulting in significant growth from a regional chain to one of the largest brands in the world. From 1990 to 1995, Mike served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Holiday Inns Worldwide, and oversaw the launch and significant growth of the new Holiday Inn Express brand.
In 1995, Mike founded U.S. Franchise Systems Inc. (USFS), which franchises the Microtel, Hawthorn and Best Inns & Suites hotel brands, and served as its Chief Executive Officer and President from October 1995 to December 2006. Mike then served as Vice Chairman of the Marcus Foundation, Inc. from January 2006 to September 2008, and Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia Aquarium, Inc. from September 2008 to 2009. From there, Mike moved on to serve as the President and Chief Operating Officer of Las Vegas Sands, leading their expansion into the Asia market, where it is a dominant player in China.
One of Mike’s prouder career accomplishments was providing Days Inn funds and resources to co-found the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) in 1989. In 2010, he created the Michael and Andrea Leven Family Foundation, which concentrates on three areas: free enterprise, the Jewish community, and oil independence.
Many hotels these days have made room for guests with disabilities. Hotel managers and staff should also know what the Americans with Disabilities Act says about accommodating guests with pets. During the pandemic lockdowns, a lot of people added a pet to their household and now they’re bringing Fido along on vacation. Hotel employees need to know how to cater to both consumers who are pet owners as well as guests who travel with a trained service animal. Episode 329 of Lodging Leaders podcast reports on how the ADA defines a service animal and how a hotel is legally obligated to serve a guest who comes with a dog or any other animal.
Nearly 48 million Americans plan to travel over the Fourth of July weekend, predicts AAA. Most of them will drive and many of them plan to stay in hotels. What makes a travel consumer choose your hotel? Price can be a factor but so can the story the property tells through its online photos and its real-life curb appeal. First impressions of a hotel set the tone for the guest’s entire stay. Its roadside image is more important than ever as the lodging industry this summer hangs its hopes on a comeback driven by domestic travelers. Lodging Leaders podcast explores the importance of a hotel’s curb appeal as hoteliers think of ways to attract travelers seeking safety and assurance as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.