After being shuttered for more than six years, Hyatt Regency New Orleans re-opened with Michael Smith as general manager on October 19, 2011. In a role he possessed prior to, during and following Hurricane Katrina, Smith returned to the property to spearhead the $275 million redevelopment of the hotel with 1,193 rooms and 200,000 square feet of enhanced meeting and exhibition space.
A Hyatt veteran with over thirty-five years of experience, Smith was responsible for ensuring the safety of Hyatt Regency New Orleans hotel guests during the epic storm in 2005. Noted as a hero on numerous occasions by the leaders of the city of New Orleans, Smith assisted the military with the evacuation of the adjacent Louisiana Superdome, while simultaneously organizing operating space for the mayor’s office, police and fire departments. He was also recognized by the Mayor and the City Council on the 5th anniversary of Katrina, as one New Orleans’ Unsung Heroes for his work during the storm. With incredible fortitude and commitment, he was proud to return to New Orleans and lead the repositioning of the hotel for its re-opening in October.
Michael Smith began his career with Hyatt Hotels Corporation in 1978 at Hyatt Winston-Salem, working his way through college. Following graduation from Winston-Salem State University with a B.A. in Business Administration, Smith joined the Hyatt Corporate Training Program at Hyatt Regency Washington. Over the years, Smith worked his way through the ranks at ten Hyatt properties; five of which he served as General Manager, including Grand Hyatt Washington, Hyatt Harborside, Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Hyatt Regency Washington (where he also began his career with Hyatt 20 years prior) and Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Smith also continued educational courses and completed the executive development program at the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.
Michael Smith has been recognized in the industry as a visionary executive. In recent years, he has been appointed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu to the New Orleans Aviation Board and Work Force Tax Commission. He also serves on the Boards of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Commission, the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and Audubon Nature Institute.
Michael Smith also has a strong philanthropic background and has earned a reputation for being a leader in this regard in five cities. He has established award-winning community service initiatives and spearheaded Hyatt Regency New Orleans’ partnership with Make It Right Foundation. In March 2012, Hyatt Regency New Orleans and Make It Right Foundation hosted “A Night to Make It Right presented by Hyatt,” an extraordinary fundraising gala that celebrated the iconic hotel’s re-opening and raised over $5 million toward the completion of Make It Right Foundation’s goal to build 150 environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. In an effort to continue to support the growth of New Orleans and its citizens, he recently took the lead on the expansion and transformation of UNCF’s Mayor’s Masked Ball, held on March 29, 2014. The event quickly became the largest most profitable in UNCF New Orleans’ history.
His personal interests include philanthropy, gastronomy, oenology and global travel.