The American Hotel & Lodging Association, The American Hotel & Lodging Foundation and The BHN Group have named Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, as the second Arne Sorenson Social Impact Leadership Award honoree. Ballotti will be recognized during the AHLA Foundation’s premier fundraising gala, Night of a Thousand Stars, on Jan. 22, 2023, as well as during the 22nd Annual Americas Lodging Investment Summit on Jan. 24, 2023.

“Geoff—much like Arne—is a true embodiment of all the good that hospitality represents. His empathy, his accessibility and his commitment to doing the right thing is what makes him one of our industry’s greatest leaders,” AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers said in a statement. “The story of his success, from dishwasher to CEO of the world’s largest hotel franchisor, is inspirational—as is his dedication to ensuring the success of future hotel leaders. I am lucky to call Geoff a colleague and friend, and it fills me with pride to honor him with this award.”

“Geoff is the quintessential example of a leader who completely understands the definition of hospitality and what it means for every facet of the industry,” said Jeff Higley, president of The BHN Group. “Dedicating his career to hospitality has led to Geoff’s commitment to being an active agent of change as the industry continues to evolve and further embrace its social responsibility and the impact it has on so many. It’s a pleasure to acknowledge Geoff’s commitment to this mindset and making the world a better place.”

A Life in Hospitality

Ballotti has spent nearly his entire career in hospitality, beginning as a dishwasher and rising through the ranks to waiter, and ultimately his current role of president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Throughout his career, Ballotti also held various leadership positions with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in the U.S. and Europe, including president of Starwood North America.

Ballotti has helped advance diversity, equity and inclusion and charitable giving. Some initiatives have included:

  • Launching Women Own the Room, the first‐ever program by a major hotel company specifically targeting women’s advancement in hotel ownership.
  • Fostering diversity through the development of BOLD by Wyndham to engage and advance more Black entrepreneurs on their path to hotel ownership.
  • Creating positive impact in the community through the Wyndham Championship and Wyndham Championship Fore! Good—the tournament’s signature philanthropic platform—which helps give back to those in the Piedmont Triad, especially in the areas of youth and education, community development and environmental sustainability; and
  • Remaining a prominent industry voice by advocating for hoteliers and helping ensure the survival of their business and protection of their family legacies during the pandemic and beyond.

The Arne Sorenson Social Impact Leadership Award was introduced in 2022 in honor of industry icon and former president and CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson, who died in February 2021. The award is presented annually to a senior-level executive in the lodging industry who strives to drive change through strong leadership and community engagement. Nominations are reviewed by AHLA’s executive committee and representatives from ALIS. David Kong, the former president and CEO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts, was the inaugural recipient of the award earlier this year.