Conferences and EventsALISALIS Conference Kicks Off With Kong Receiving Lifetime Achievement Award

ALIS Conference Kicks Off With Kong Receiving Lifetime Achievement Award

LODGING is live from ALIS 2024, brought to you by Choice Hotels. Access more of our live coverage here.

The lodging industry is convening for the first time in 2024 as the 23rd annual ALIS conference kicks off today in Los Angeles with a number of highlights for the roughly 2,000 attendees, including the recognition of former Best Western chieftain David Kong.

Kong—who retired as president and CEO of Best Western Hotels at the end of 2021—will be presented with the ALIS Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is presented to an individual who has made significant contributions to the hospitality industry through their actions, deeds, and great accomplishments.

“This award reinforces the idea that bold dreams, pursued without hesitation, can lead to fulfillment. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities this industry has provided,” Kong told LODGING.

Kong is currently founder and principal of DEI Advisors, an Arizona non-profit organization. Prior to his 20-year career at Best Western, he held leadership positions with KPMG Consulting, Hyatt Hotels Corp., Omni Hotels & Resorts, and Hilton International.

Kong reflected on his hospitality journey and pointed to his time at the helm of Best Western as a pivotal period.

“My greatest career accomplishment, achieved in collaboration with a capable and passionate team, was transforming Best Western International. We evolved from a single midscale brand to a diverse hotel company with 18 brands competing across every chain scale segment. The company achieved unprecedented results in terms of balance sheet strength, RevPAR Index, and guest and hotel satisfaction. What makes me particularly proud is presenting the Board with three internal CEO candidates, one of whom was chosen to succeed me,” he said, in reference to current CEO Larry Cuculic.

To that point, Kong was asked by LODGING his thoughts on the current state of leadership within the rest of the hospitality industry.

“I am heartened to observe many brands focusing on talent development and the elevation of diverse voices within their leadership…By fostering an inclusive and supportive environment, we ensure a stronger, more innovative future for the entire industry,” he noted.

Kong offered his perspective on the industry and how he expects it to fare from a performance standpoint in the year ahead.  

“The lodging industry has showcased remarkable resilience, bouncing back strongly from the challenges of 2020. The sharp rise in ADR is welcome news for our industry and has also resulted in some pushback from our guests. The corporate and group segments are on a positive trajectory. Barring unforeseen events, I anticipate 2024 to be a ‘normal’ year with moderate growth in both occupancy and ADR,” he said.  

Kong further weighed in on the development front.

“I expect more new construction deals than in 2023 as interest rates begin to fall. The industry’s ability to adapt and thrive inspires confidence in its sustained success,” he said.

Day one of ALIS also includes some notable panel discussions, including “Development Disruptors,” which is moderated by John Lancaster, VP, emerging markets, Choice Hotels International. The panel includes Dana Jacobsohn, Chief Development Officer, Marriott International; Robin Kennedy, EVP & CDO, Montage International; Rachel Moniz, COO, HEI Hotels & Resorts; and Monica Xuereb, Chief Commercial Officer, Loews Hotels & Co.

Meanwhile, a session entitled “Boardroom Outlook: Strategy” is being moderated by Daniel Peek, President & COO, Hodges Ward Elliott. Panelists include Julie Arrowsmith, President & CEO; G6 Hospitality John Cohlan, CEO, Margaritaville; Michael Lipson, CEO, President, Access Point Financial; and Jim Merkel, CEO & Co-Founder, Rockbridge.