As President and COO of Hartz' Grand Hospitality division, Tony L. Fant manages the Soho Grand Hotel and the Tribeca Grand Hotel in Manhattan, and the Sheraton Suites in Lincoln Harbor, Weehawken, NJ. An integral member of Hartz Mountain's launch and development team, Fant has helped make both the Soho and Tribeca Grand Hotels of Manhattan highly touted destinations.
Mr. Fant brings over 20 years of hospitality industry experience to Hartz. Prior to opening the Soho Grand in 1996 he managed the New York Renaissance Hotel and the Crowne Plaza Hotel Manhattan.
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
I have always been drawn to the energy and vibrancy of the industry. It’s one of the rare fields where you can constantly develop, evolve, and perfect a product that is directly linked to memorable events. Since I opened the doors of the Soho Grand, I’ve been able to witness many milestone moments for our guests and our hotel team. There is a real sense of community and humanity…and I love that for a glimpse, be it short or long, we are someone’s home away from home.
In such a competitive industry, how does GrandLife Hotels stay so successful?
We refuse to rest on our laurels. When we first opened the Soho Grand in the mid-90s, we pioneered an entire neighborhood which hadn’t seen a single hotel development in over 100 years. While many of our peers only saw the risks involved of this unchartered path, we noticed a huge opportunity in the heartland of a dynamic and creatively led territory of downtown Manhattan. It is this adventurous and risk-taking spirit which continues to define our properties and also an unswerving loyalty to our guests and their needs as they too continue to evolve.
What partnerships/marketing strategies did you implement that attributed to the success of GrandLife?
We immediately determined that we wanted to champion a hotel culture that went beyond the staid and predictable hotel premises of yore. We weren’t going to be just another bedroom where you happened to have a concierge…Rather we wanted to create a welcoming, lively, enjoyable space where friends would gather, have fun, and if so inclined, sleep. Of course, in only the most comfortable surroundings imaginable. Regarding social media, we were early adopters and continue to tout its ever increasing importance both in terms of creating inter-connectedness and community. Again, our guests share a lifestyle, an interest base, a sense of purpose and quality of life. Social media is one of the many channels they and we have to engage with each other and share tips and insights.
Your greatest successes?
Knowing we carved the way for others to follow: Soho is now the hottest destination in Manhattan and home to dozens of hotels.
How important is location and design selection to the success of your hotels?
Our hotels are deeply anchored in their geography. From the location, all other elements of the hotel—design, food & beverage, staff, programming—emanate. Since our inception, we have wanted the hotels to be organic to their surroundings rather than some external or alien entity unilaterally imposing itself. It’s this sensibility to our neighbors which has made us welcome entities wherever we have opened our doors.
What qualities make a 5 Star Hotelier?
Dedication, passion, flexibility and an incredibly strong and talented team.
Describe the ideal customer experience at a GrandLife hotel?
A seamless arrival, an unexpected encounter with an old friend, followed by a thorough exploration of the neighborhood and all its many gems, an evening of food executed to perfection on site or off site, and a perfect night’s sleep…and a bittersweet departure, of course, and longing to return.
Surround yourself with inspiring people who relentlessly push you to achieve greatness. Don’t be timid.
Favorite travel destination?
Anywhere with my family and little reception.
Role model - business and personal?
Business role model: Ian Schrager
Personal role model: Richard Branson
What literature is on your bed stand?
Ray Bradbury stories
What's next for GrandLifeHotels and yourself?
Miami Art Basel