A record 6,700 attendees converged on National Harbor last week for the 2018 AAHOA Convention and Trade Show. Hotel owners, hospitality professionals, and industry partners alike gathered at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside of Washington, D.C., from March 27-30 to discuss the previous year’s successes and learn about opportunities for growth and improvement from industry leaders and educational sessions.
Speaking during the convention’s opening general session, AAHOA President and CEO Chip Rogers pointed out that hoteliers have no shortage of reasons to be optimistic—from low gas prices and rising housing values to falling unemployment rates and a 50-year low in jobless claims. “The call to the open road is much more inviting when a gallon of gas is under three dollars. This means that more travelers equal more hotel guests,” Rogers said. “The consumer confidence index remains high. It has remained high after hitting a record number just last year.”
Rogers added that he expects tax reform will bring even greater growth for the industry and opportunities for hoteliers. “This law is a tremendous victory for hotel owners. AAHOA members are ready to capitalize on these new growth opportunities for their businesses as they reinvest these tax savings into property development, wage increases, job creation, and even new construction.”
Bhavesh Patel, AAHOA’s immediate past chair and president of ADM Hotels, highlighted the association’s increased membership and legislative triumphs of the previous year. At the close of 2017, the association surpassed its previous record membership of 16,000 with 17,753 AAHOA members. At the same time, the share of lifetime members increased to 40 percent. “2017 was the year where teamwork made our dreams work,” Patel said, citing members’ roles in advocating for the passing of tax reform legislation in December and the passing of H.R. 620, ADA Education and Reform Act, in the House of Representatives.
Patel also noted that in 2017 marked, the association took significant steps to proactively stop human trafficking. AAHOA is offering human trafficking awareness training and certification through Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) to its members. Earlier this year, every member its board completed the training. “I encourage you to do the same,” Patel told an audience of thousands of members. “We are determined to help stop the evil known as human trafficking.” AAHOA also forged partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign and Polaris to educate hoteliers on identifying and preventing trafficking at their properties.
For the first time, the 2018 AAHOA Convention showcased presentations on leadership from more than a dozen CEOs of leading hotel companies. Best Western President and CEO David Kong focused his address on advancements in technology, advising hoteliers to “think like disruptors.” Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger talked about a leader he admired, President John F. Kennedy, and said leaders are those who “take on the hard task.” Hyatt President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian named three qualities of a leader—curiosity, leading with a compass and not a map, and empathy. Elie Maalouf, IHG CEO, Americas, said that leaders should exhibit good judgment and courage, and, specifically in the hotel business, “The courage to act on market decisions before everyone else goes in that direction.”
Other CEO speakers included La Quinta President & CEO Keith Cline; Radisson CEO & COO John Kidd; Choice President & CEO Pat Pacious; My Place Hotels President & CEO Ryan Rivett; Red Roof President Andy Alexander; G6 Hospitality President & CEO Jim Amorosia; Wyndham Hotel Group President & CEO Geoff Ballotti; Magnuson Worldwide Co-Founder Thomas Magnuson; and a video address from RLH Corporation CEO Greg Mount. Keynote speakers included Hall of Fame football coach and broadcaster Jimmy Johnson, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon, Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke, 5-Hour Energy CEO Manoj Bhargava, Olympic champion Sanya Richards Doss, and entrepreneur Michael Hyatt.