I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to remember the early days of AAHOA. Partly the effects of old age, partly the passage of decades in time (how am I old enough to say that?), today’s AAHOA is something I’m not even sure its founders expected; the preeminent power in the hospitality business.
I know there was a time when AAHOA was akin to a youngster forced to sit at the children’s table. Annoyed by its position, but understanding it didn’t quite have the potency needed to command a spot at the adult’s table.
Those days are engulfed in a haze where you know it’s true, but can’t really imagine it ever was. After all, with more than 15,000 members and ownership of nearly half the hotels in the country, AAHOA doesn’t just represent the hotel industry, it is the hotel industry.
Which is why I am not surprised last week’s annual conference was overflowing with confidence. Confidence regarding the organization’s preeminence, confidence for the state of the hotel industry, and most critical, confidence among the hotel owners present.
And its members should feel that way. I did, and I’m only an outside observer. It was one of the most incredible weeks in the history of the hotel industry, and mustn’t go unnoticed.
During the past decade, the organization went through a colossal change as younger second- (and sometimes third-) generation hoteliers reached distinction. They’ve taken their forbearers' hard work and used it as a base to catapult their careers and businesses. And in turn they transformed the organization into something I’m not sure their parents ever expected during the early days of AAHOA in the 1990s.
They’ve become a prominent force affecting change both in the hotel industry, and maybe even more importantly on Capitol Hill, where their lobbying efforts (along with the AH&LA, who also does an amazing job) are helping drive more success for the entire business of hotels and travel.
Now, instead of the association trying to get industry’s attention, the industry is trying to get AAHOA’s attention. I am pretty sure it was the first time the CEOs of the top 10 hotel companies in the United States participated in a pair of panels in front of a general session of more than 3,000 people each day.
It was an amazing thing to see, and even more amazing to be a part of the experience. Last week I had the incredible honor to host as moderator both those sessions. It was a truly heady experience for me (and a major career highlight), but the attendance of CEOs from Marriott, Hilton, Best Western, Choice, IHG, Vantage, Wyndham, Hyatt, La Quinta and G6 proved indisputably AAHOA’s strength and relevance in the hospitality universe.
It’s the AAHOA era in hospitality, and I look forward to seeing how this year’s Chairman Bharat (Bruce) Patel will continue to push the organization to new heights and help the needs of its members. Congratulations to outgoing Chairman Jay (Jimmy) Patel for his year of hard work at the helm.
Here’s a peek at what they accomplished in 2015, according to AAHOA's annual report:
- Nearly doubled AAHOA PAC revenue from the previous year and surpassed fundraising goals by $130,000.
- Provided assistance on hundreds of member calls dealing with brands, vendors and issues facing hoteliers every day.
- Developed a new strategic plan with aggressive goals to propel the association forward through 2020.
- Orchestrated 239 legislative meetings and attended over 450 meetings with congressional offices during two national advocacy conferences in Washington, D.C.
- Hosted five hotel tours and roundtable discussions with federal elected officials across the country.
- Testified at hearings before five state agencies.
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