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Mar 4, 2011
by Krista Purcell, '08

Spear Castillo rises up in the world of luxury hotels

Deborah Spear Castillo, ’83, certainly knows what it’s like to climb the corporate ladder, not to mention the world of five-star travel.

In the summer of 2010, she was named vice president of hotel sales for Loews Hotels, one of the country’s top luxury lodging companies with 19 hotels located in the United States and Canada.

Castillo, who joined Loews in 1999 and has more than 24 years of industry experience, will now focus her efforts on sales, advertising, public relations and revenue management for hotels on the East Coast and Canada.

That will be a big task, especially as the recession continues to affect hotel companies like Loews.

“Managing through this economic downturn has been the most difficult time of my career,” she said. “The travel and tourism industry has been impacted by the recession, with some of our hotels having been hit harder than others, depending on the destination, but all have been affected one way or another.”

At first, Castillo thought the current recession would be similar to the one after 9/11, and the industry would rebound within a year or so. But as time went on, it became clear that the road to full economic recovery would be longer than expected.

“We do see positive change (in the past quarter of 2010), and we are optimistic for 2011,” Castillo said.

She’s excited about the challenges of the new position and considers it the highlight of her career.

“Besides getting to stay in some great hotels, I enjoy going to work every day and getting to work with some terrific people,” she said. “Also, I have an opportunity to meet interesting people.”

In fact, from the very start of Castillo’s career, she’s been bumping elbows with celebrities, including Shaquille O’Neal, Billy Joel, Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse and George Harrison, to name a few.

Another perk of the job includes the travel from one luxury hotel to the next. “While I am based out of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel in South Beach, I travel to our home office in New York on a regular basis,” she said.

Castillo graduated from Flagler College uncertain about her plans. But after holding a customer service position in Palm Coast, Fla., she moved on into the hotel industry, first with Sheraton and later to Loews in Miami, where the company credits her with the successful relaunch the Loews Miami Beach Hotel after a $50 million renovation.

“Debbie has done a tremendous job for Loews Hotels throughout the years, guiding the marketing efforts of her regional hotels, as well as leading Loews Hotels International effort,” said Felicia Fisher, senior vice president sales and strategic planning at Loews Hotels. “As Vice President of Hotel Sales her expertise will be a vital part of developing and executing our company’s sales and marketing initiatives.”

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