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Harris Rosen: “Hitchhiker” to Famous Hotelier & Philanthropist

Why did Harris Rosen hitchhike from Orlando to New England in search of business?  


Because he was the type of American business owner ready to fight for his dream – a hotel on International Drive purchased 50 years ago, only three years after Walt Disney World opened its gates to the Magic Kingdom.  


The Magic Kingdom was then brand-new and huge to Orlando. It created a golden opportunity for Mr. Rosen and many others—especially competing hotels. But there was a crisis preventing people from visiting.  

The Creative Entrepreneur  

Harris Rosen in front of his first hotel purchase in Orlando Florida

On top of competing with other hotels for guests, Mr. Rosen and area hoteliers faced the damaging effects of the 1973 oil embargo. The embargo sparked one of the most passioned fights for the independent, 35-year-old businessman of his whole career.  

In a nutshell, the 1973 oil crisis caused a shortage of gasoline which stranded many would-be travelers. He ambitiously stepped up to save his newly purchased hotel.  

His idea was to hitchhike to New England to meet with top motor coach companies in hopes of a business partnership. He wanted patrons from the bus tours to stay at his hotel. So, Mr. Rosen had each company write down a room rate they were comfortable paying and promised to honor it for their patrons for one year.  

It worked! His 256-room hotel stayed afloat with this creative approach. Within the year, business began to soar after the oil embargo had been lifted.  


The Humble Hotelier  

Harris Rosen posing for a picture

Jump forward a couple of decades to find Mr. Rosen as the proud owner of seven Orlando hotels. This encompasses over 6,000 guestrooms and suites as well as an astounding 730,000 sq. feet of meeting space.  

That’s a lot to oversee, and if you think the founder who has this and so much more in his portfolio would take a step back and live in luxury, think again.  

This president drives around a 2015 Nissan, uses the same office at his original hotel (which is three guest rooms combined), and continues to take an active role in the company that carries his name. Mr. Rosen continues to keep his company private, free from outside investors, making him the largest independent hotelier in Florida and winning numerous hospitality awards fueling the growth of Rosen Hotels & Resorts for 50 years. 


The Generous Philanthropist  

Harris Rosen reading to children

As a humble man who recognizes all the help he received throughout his journey, Mr. Rosen felt compelled to give back to the community that transformed his life.  

He created the Harris Rosen Foundation for his philanthropic endeavors. Through this, he donated $18 million to purchase the land on which the University of Central Florida built the esteemed Rosen College of Hospitality Management.   

He also adopted the underserved Central Florida community Tangelo Park where he provides a free preschool education to neighborhood children ages 2 through 4. This program grants the same children who qualify, upon their high school graduations, with a scholarship toward vocational school, community college, or a four-year Florida public college or university. Tuition, room and board, and books are included.  

This life-changing program paved the way for a similar program in a larger underserved neighborhood, Parramore west of downtown Orlando. Mr. Rosen hopes that other humanitarians across the nation will copy his program so that millions more children can dream of achieving a higher education beyond high school.  

Collage of Harris Rosen and his seven hotels in Orlando Florida for 50th Anniversary

Rosen Hotels & Resorts has played a vital role in the Orlando community within the past 50 years, both economically and culturally. Mr. Harris Rosen has defined his legacy and continues to do what he can to uplift both his business and the city he’s called home for half a decade.  

If you want to experience The Rosen Difference knowing you’re helping Rosen Hotels & Resorts continue to give back, book a stay at one of the seven properties.  

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