Ian Schrager knows a thing or two about creating spaces that people clamor to get into, starting with Studio 54, which was the of-the-moment New York hot spot in the 1970s (and the subject of a recent documentary). But in the 1980s, after a conviction on felony tax evasion charges, for which he was later pardoned, Mr. Schrager left the nightclub world behind and struck out into the hotel business with the creation of Morgans Hotel Group. Mr. Schrager has since sold the hotel group, renovated and sold the Gramercy Park Hotel, and begun even more hospitality ventures, including the Public hotels and a collaboration with Marriott International on the Edition line of hotels.
In November, Edition opened new properties in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi; Times Square and West Hollywood are on deck for 2019. Understandably, Mr. Schrager, who is based in Manhattan, is often on the road. Here is a look at where he goes, what he takes with him and what he thinks travelers want in a hotel.
How often do you travel?
For pleasure, I’ll travel about a dozen times a year. I have a family; I love to get away with them as much I can. For work, it depends on what I’m working on. We’re currently working on about 40 new Edition hotels and there are also new Public hotels as well. So yes, I do travel a lot, but I’m lucky I still love my work.
I just recently went to Shanghai for the opening of the Edition there. I was completely blown away. I’ve been there before — about a year or two ago — but China moves at light speed. I was so impressed by the anything is possible energy and what they have accomplished and the architecture. I was amazed at how advanced everything was and how the people were so fashion-forward.
Do you sleep on the plane? Read? Watch movies?
I sleep when I can, which is not very often. I primarily do a lot of work. When I’m on a plane, it’s a perfect silence in the sense that there’s no disturbance. I think for a lot of people, the plane is really one of the few places now where you are isolated, where it’s calm, and you can really get a lot of quality work done.
Do you use Wi-Fi on the plane or do you use that time to disconnect?
I send a lot of emails. I have to have Wi-Fi. No Wi-Fi, no go.
Are there certain things that you always take with you?
Usually I have a backlog of newspapers and magazine articles at home that I want to read but haven’t had a chance to. I put them all in that shopping bag and I can toss it all when I’m done. I also have my chargers and my technology items and my basic AirPod headphones. It’s like a mobile office.
Checked luggage or carry on?
I try to get everything into an overnight bag. If it doesn’t go on a plane, I don’t want to take it. I have a black T. Anthony bag of very, very soft leather that I have had for many, many years and keep renewing it. But recently I just got a black suitcase with very smooth wheels by Arlo Skye. With the wheels, it’s a lot easier to move through the airport.
When you’re checking out a potential spot for a new hotel, what are you looking for?
I have to first get excited about doing something there. I have to like the city. The city itself has to resonate with me. If it passes that test, than I’m looking for an opportunity. I’m looking to see if there’s something in that city that hasn’t been done yet there.
What do you think people are looking for in a hotel?
They’re looking for something more than just a place to sleep. That means they are looking for the best of the city they are visiting in that specific hotel. So when you go to that city, you’re experiencing that city and that culture at that hotel but in a unique and elevated way — it’s like you’re creating a microcosm.
Where do you want to go that you haven’t gone yet?
I’ve had the good fortune to see most places I’ve wanted to see. But I haven’t been to the Amazon. I haven’t been to Antarctica. I haven’t been to North Korea. I also want to take my son on safari. I went once in Kenya and I took my daughters; that was about seven or eight years ago. With my son, I’d take him to Tanzania. I’d love to see that migration that the animals go through.