The 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show kicked off its largest event in the association’s history this week, with more than 6,300 hoteliers, vendor and brand representatives, and other industry professionals converging at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas—the largest booking in that space since the pandemic began. During the opening general session, incoming 2021-2022 AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel welcomed members, acknowledging the challenges that hoteliers faced over the past 18 months, their perseverance through the pandemic, and what gives him hope for the future.
“Throughout the pandemic, being part of AAHOA for me, personally, really helped me overcome the challenges posed over this very difficult year. This sense of camaraderie was grounding and reassuring, and I know that you all felt it as well. This is the power of association and being together,” Vinay Patel said as he addressed members during the opening general session. “AAHOA is built for times like this when we all need to stick together to survive.”
Current AAHOA Chair Biran Patel reflected on the state of the industry in the wake of COVID-19: the leisure and hospitality industry lost 3.1 million jobs, recorded an occupancy rate of 44 percent in 2020, and surpassed 1 billion unsold room nights for the first time in documented history. Despite these setbacks, many hoteliers stepped up to support their communities. “You are essential businesses that braved the health risk of this pandemic to provide shelter to those in need,” Biran Patel continued. “You showed the world what hospitality is all about. Our nation needs you and your businesses.”
During the crisis, AAHOA members showed up and banded together, Biran Patel said, tripling member engagement over 2019 levels. “We all joined forces because when the going gets tough, we want smart people with big ideas and the best resources in the industry supporting us,” said Biran Patel.
The association directed this energy into its education and political engagement, recording 467 meetings with Congress and the administration and more than 62,000 letters sent to lawmakers urging relief and successfully advocating for programs like the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including working with the administration to approve the affiliation waiver, allowing owners with multiple assets to secure PPP loans for each property.
Efforts at the state and local level included deeming hotels essential in the early days of the pandemic, fighting for liability protections that became law in 25 states, and assisting 24 states by providing direct financial support to small businesses via grant and loan programs. To build on these efforts, AAHOA and AHLA recently established the American Hospitality Alliance to pool resources and promote the hospitality industry at the state and local levels.
AAHOA members’ influence on the industry and impact on the U.S. economy is now documented in a newly released two-year study conducted in partnership with Oxford Economics. According to the report, AAHOA member-owned hotels account for 60 percent of all U.S. hotels and contribute $368.4 billion to the U.S. GDP.
Ken Greene, who was recently appointed interim president and CEO of AAHOA, said that this data highlights how far the association has come in the 32 years since a small group of hoteliers met in Atlanta to form the association. “The time is now for AAHOA to fight for our members on a federal, state, and local level and make a difference.”
“We aspire for AAHOA to be the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners,” Biran Patel shared. “From advocacy and franchise relations to events, education, and developing top talent, we have an aggressive plan to make sure that we best serve our members.”