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Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts

The Inter-Continental Hotels & Resorts—the first international hotel brand—was founded in 1946 by Juan T. Trippe, chairman and founder of Pan American World Airways. Trippe had taken a small aviation company operating with flights between Florida and the Caribbean and turned it into a multimillion dollar enterprise, dominating the market in Latin America and offering the first flights across the Pacific to Honolulu. As the airline continued to expand its network, Trippe realized the potential of combining his business with accommodations for a growing number of passengers traveling by air. The first Inter-Continental hotel opened in Belém, Brazil in 1946, and subsequent hotels were quickly established along the Latin American air routes.

With the invention of the jet engine, Pan Am was able to offer its first transatlantic jet flight to Europe in 1958—a flight from New York to Paris. Pan-Am had an ambitious program of hotel building near each new destination, extending the glamour and modern convenience of mid-century air travel to luxurious yet efficient accommodations. Enlisting architects with an advanced modernist vocabulary to build their hotels, Pan-Am created a model where luxury translated into elegant forms and a sophisticated use of building materials. The placement of the hotels, often within sightlines of notable landmarks or perched to take in sweeping vistas, heightened the excitement and drama of modern travel.

But perhaps the most striking feature of the Inter-Continental Hotels was the uniqueness of its interiors. Picking up on the colors and textures of their surroundings, echoing indigenous forms and patterns in their decorative elements, sourcing local materials and local craftsman, the interior spaces catered to more than the perfunctory needs of the traveler. The environments created by Neal Prince and his associates were poetic: about the journey of the imagination that accompanies any voyage, tapping into the freedom and pleasures of traveling, its specificity of place, and the thrill of first encounters.