Regional Priorities Tourism Visit Orlando

Loving the Journey

How tourism provided a career path for a college student with big dreams.

Q&A with Barb Bowden, Complex Managing Director of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando

Tourism is Orlando’s No. 1 employer, and those jobs are filled with opportunities for career advancement. Barb Bowden is one of myriad examples. More than 30 years ago, she started as a front desk supervisor at The Peabody Orlando — today, she’s in charge of two spectacular Loews hotels at Universal Orlando Resort. We recently spoke with Bowden to explore everything from her personal story to the importance of employee development.

What brought you to Orlando?

As a student at Missouri State University, I was recruited for the Disney College Program. I absolutely fell in love with the hospitality community, and I knew without a doubt I’d return and begin my career in the hotel industry.

If there were a theme to your career arc, what would it be?

I’d call it “love the journey.” Every assignment is a chance to learn, to be challenged and to contribute. I’ve been fortunate to work with leaders who’ve supported my growth. Now I’m paying it forward. I have four mentees, and I learn as much from them as they do from me.

How do tourism jobs benefit our region’s workforce?

Our industry offers tremendous opportunities for career advancement, which benefits our region as we recruit and retain talent. Loews provides management training classes and tuition reimbursement to help team members grow into their next position. Investing in our team is the most important thing we do.

What are you most proud of achieving at Loews Hotels?

I’m proud of creating a cohesive, successful complex operation by connecting Loews Sapphire Falls Resort to Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Most of all, I’m proud of the service culture we’ve created. It starts with caring for our internal team and empowering them to take care of guests.

What trends are you seeing in terms of luxury hotel guests?

Our guests expect us to know their preferences and provide personalized service. They appreciate our “Chat Your Service” platform, where they can text a question to our hotel team and get an immediate response. They also love to learn and have new adventures, like our rum-tasting experience at Loews Sapphire Falls.

What are you most looking forward to at your resorts?

We opened our sixth Orlando property, Universal’s Aventura Hotel, in August 2018. Now we’re looking forward to opening Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites this summer, and Dockside Inn and Suites in 2020. These properties are our first value product at Universal Orlando. No matter a guest’s budget, style or preference, we’ll have the right hotel for them.

Why team up with Visit Orlando?

As we promote our hotel openings, Visit Orlando is an incredibly valued partner. With other markets emerging as tourist and meeting destinations, Visit Orlando’s mission to market Orlando to the entire world is vitally important.

Abundant Opportunities

Career growth is a staple of the tourism industry

The success of Loews hotel executive Barb Bowden (profiled at left) reminds us of the abundant, life-changing opportunities available in tourism.

With a drive to excel and a strong support network, Barb and countless other industry leaders have climbed the ranks to build meaningful, rewarding careers here in Orlando. Today, they’re helping the next generation reach their potential through mentorship programs, management training, tuition reimbursement and other workplace initiatives.

As someone who has spent a lifetime in hospitality, including nearly three decades in Orlando, I too have benefited from the generosity of people in our industry. But it’s not just altruism that inspires career growth — on a larger scale, our tourism community has a vested interest in grooming talented employees to take on bigger roles and fill jobs constantly being created through our ongoing expansion.

The reality is that tourism is Central Florida’s economic engine, supporting 41 percent of the workforce and contributing to our wonderful quality of life.

When we invest in the careers of those who power tourism, we’re not only doing right by employees, we’re making Orlando an even more appealing destination to live, work and play.

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About the author

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Visit Orlando

Visit Orlando is the only officially recognized sales and marketing organization for the Orlando and Orange County area. Their focus is promoting Orlando as one of America's great vacation and meeting destinations and providing comprehensive, unbiased information to all travelers.

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