Don and Pat Engfer have been married for 32 years. If you ask them, their greatest accomplishment together would be their two children, both into adulthood now, and living on opposite coasts of the country. Their son Matt lives in New York City and daughter Michelle lives in Los Angeles, California. “We wanted to raise two independent children, but now I think we got a little carried away!” laughs Pat. Don agrees, and says that though their children live far from the sunshine state now, having them grow up in Orlando was the best choice. “Orlando was and still is a great place to raise children, I am very glad we moved here. I like the saying, ‘we may not be natives, but we have sand in our shoes,’” he said.
Orlando is very happy they moved as well. They made the trek from California over two decades ago, achieving high rankings in the tourism industry of Orlando ever since. Exemplifying the term “leadership” and making impressive improvements regarding the experiences of Orlando’s visitors, they have accomplished a great deal in their short time as Central Florida residents, all in addition to the raising of their successful daughter and son, Michelle and Matt.
Don and Pat met while both were working for Hyatt at the company’s Los Angeles airport hotel in California. After keeping their relationship private for more than a year, they decided it was time to tell their boss they were engaged. “We did not know how he would react, but he was delighted and totally fine with it,” shares Pat. Don had started working for Hyatt as a bellhop to earn money during college, and Pat started as a concierge. They both truly worked their way from the bottom up, working together at Hyatt for 12 years.
During this time, Don held various operating and financial positions, including regional comptroller. He then began working in recreation assets for the Irvine Company, a large development company in Newport Beach, California. He became the vice president of hotels for the Irvine Company while Pat continued to climb the ranks with Hyatt. A few years later her position led to their transfer to Orlando, as she accepted the general manager position of the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, tasked with opening the hotel.
The Right Move: To the Sunshine State
After the move, Pat worked to open the new Hyatt hotel, while Don began working for Tishman; a company that specializes in managing all aspects of projects from acquisition, development and financing, to ongoing asset and property management. He is now the senior vice president. Don’s company is responsible for some of the most significant assets that are located in the middle of Disney property, but not owned by Disney.
One of those marquee assets is the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, which Don is the asset manager of and has worked at for more than 20 years. The resort encompasses 750,000 gross square-feet, has 2,267 rooms and also features 15 restaurants. “I love the nature of what I do,” shares Don. “My work history has allowed me to experience various jobs to gain and perfect different skills.” Don also supervises the Sheraton located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, visiting once every quarter to make sure things are running smoothly.
Meanwhile, Pat’s hard work and long dedication with Hyatt hotels also paid off. She became the area vice president and general manager in 2013 of the Orlando Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. A company veteran, she has been with Hyatt for 37 years now. “Nurturing my employees and seeing them succeed,” she has expressed is her favorite part of the job.
Don and Pat have held other honorable positions in regards to Orlando’s social and civil organizations. Pat is a past chair of Visit Orlando, and Don, who is currently chair-elect, will take the helm next year. Pat is the only person to have chaired all of the “the big four” boards, which in addition to Visit Orlando include the Economic Development Commission Orlando, Central Florida Partnership and the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his current leadership role as an Executive Committee member and Chair-Elect of Visit Orlando, Don has also been a member of the Mayor’s Citizens Oversight Committee – Community Venues and Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association.
Don and Pat, humble and hardworking, quietly reign as Orlando’s Power Couple of Tourism. Though not natives, they have certainly become precious assets to the success of Orlando’s tourism industry. Their well deserved positions allow them to oversee and take part in making all of Central Florida greater. They continue to help improve the experiences of those visiting, giving them a trip they won’t soon forget while encouraging them to come back to soak up all Orlando has to offer time and time again. They continue to create an environment that makes visitors feel excited to be a part of the magic that is Orlando.