ILHA Launches Los Angeles Chapter

The International Luxury Hotel Association held its first board meeting of the LA Chapter on March 22 at the offices of Hodges Ward Elliott. Marcus Lee, Executive Vice President—Development, HVS, started the chapter and will serve as the Chapter Head.

“I’m thrilled to be joined by such an esteemed group of hospitality experts in establishing the Los Angeles Chapter of ILHA. I’m thankful to each of them for their help in initiating this LA Chapter and participating on the Board. As a center of culture and entertainment, Los Angeles is a trendsetter in delivering luxury travel experiences.  It’s terrific to have the opportunity to launch a forum where thought leaders of the industry can exchange ideas, share knowledge, and build connections. As a business leader at HVS, a firm that focuses exclusively on delivering comprehensive services to the hospitality industry, inaugurating this ILHA chapter is a perfect fit.”, commented Marcus Lee, Executive Vice President, HVS.

Barak Hirschowitz, President of the ILHA, opened the meeting by introducing the organization, its origins, evolution, and the invaluable role it plays in the luxury hotel industry.

“With great pleasure, I welcome you all to our inaugural Los Angeles chapter meeting of the International Luxury Hotel Association,” Barak began. “Before we dive into the specifics, let me take a moment to provide some context about the ILHA and its journey thus far.”

He recounted the organization’s humble beginnings in 2006, conceived as a forum—a term that might evoke nostalgia for those who remembered the era before the dominance of social media. “Our founding board members, including luminaries like Peter Gassner of Marriott and Alex Sogno of Global Asset Solutions, laid the groundwork for what would become a global hub for luxury hotel professionals,” Barak continued, nodding to the pivotal role played by individuals like Allison Sitch, formerly of Ritz Carlton.

Highlighting the unique niche the ILHA filled, Barak emphasized how traditional education and industry associations often fell short in addressing the rapidly evolving landscape of luxury hospitality. “Luxury is not static; it’s dynamic, ever-evolving,” he remarked. “As the industry underwent seismic shifts—from the rise of design hotels to the globalization of travel—we recognized the need for a platform where professionals could exchange ideas, share insights, and navigate the complexities of this sector.”

Barak traced the ILHA’s journey from its online forum roots to its current status as a non-profit association boasting over half a million followers globally. “Our growth has been nothing short of remarkable,” he stated proudly. “From humble online beginnings to hosting over 50 events annually, both in-person and virtual, the ILHA has cemented its position as a beacon of excellence in the luxury hospitality realm.”

Barak outlined the array of offerings and initiatives spearheaded by the ILHA—including advisory groups, committee meetings, webinars, and prestigious conferences. “We are not merely an association; we are a community—a network of leaders, innovators, and visionaries committed to driving excellence in luxury hospitality,” he declared, his words resonating with conviction.

Following Barak’s introduction, the members of the ILHA’s Los Angeles chapter board took turns introducing themselves, offering a glimpse into their roles and interests within the luxury hospitality sector.

Erik Eveleigh, Vice President of Development for the Americas at SH Hotels and Resorts, expressed his excitement for organizations promoting luxury travel and development. He oversees brands like 1 Hotels and Homes, Treehouse Hotels, and Baccarat, emphasizing their commitment to wellness and sustainable luxury.

David Kuperberg, representing Hyatt, shared his enthusiasm for expanding beyond lifestyle brands into the luxury sphere, noting the unique opportunities in this space.

Tom McHugh, a seasoned professional in hotel and resort brokerage at Hodges Ward Elliott, discussed his extensive background in luxury resort operations and brokerage. He aims to contribute valuable insights gleaned from his diverse experiences to the group.

Samantha Sugarman, overseeing asset management for Trinity Investments, highlighted the importance of networking and staying ahead of industry trends within a hotel ownership group context.

Aggie Zamir, from Cumming Group, offered her expertise in development advisory services for hospitality across the Americas and Europe, focusing on upper-scale and luxury properties. Her deep understanding of international markets brings a valuable perspective to the group.

Archer Brosh, from Palisociety, an industry leading firm in hospitality, food & beverage, branding & marketing, design, and real estate investments, offered insight into brand affiliation and management for smaller-keyed hotels across the United States.

Will Hales, representing Innspace, discussed their role as a general contractor focusing on upscale and luxury hotels. Their in-house design and procurement options provide comprehensive solutions within the hospitality industry.

Marcus Lee, leads business development for HVS’ Asset Management and Advisory division. HVS is a preeminent global consulting and services firm, focused exclusively on the hospitality industry. His business focus is further expanding HVS’ third-party asset management, brand and operator search advisory, and development advisory services nationwide.

Blake Malecha, Senior Vice President at BLVD Hospitality, discussed his role in acquisitions at the company, highlighting their focus on expanding their platform beyond California. He is particularly excited about projects like their upcoming hotels near Disneyland in Anaheim and Hilton Tapestry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Michael Cohen, from CIM Group, shared his transition from hospitality roles in New York to Los Angeles, focusing on investments and asset management. His experience in equity and credit platforms adds depth to the discussions within the group.

Mark Zikov, representing Proper Hospitality, is responsible for business development, acquisitions, and asset management across the Company’s award-winning portfolio of luxury lifestyle hotels. He is excited to work alongside other seasoned professionals in the luxury hospitality industry and grow ILHA’s presence on the West Coast. 

Each member’s introduction provided valuable insights into their backgrounds, expertise, and aspirations within the luxury hospitality industry, setting the stage for fruitful collaborations and discussions within the Los Angeles chapter of the ILHA. Following the formal introductions, the board members adjourned to a more casual mixer at the Fairmont Century Plaza, to get to know each other better. 

The ILHA is thrilled to offer its full support to the Los Angeles chapter as it continues to grow and thrive within the luxury hospitality landscape. We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to host more networking events, foster meaningful connections, and take a deeper dive into the diverse discussions and initiatives within the ILHA community. As our chapter members become more involved in ILHA activities, including webinars and speaking engagements, we are confident that their contribution