The following commentary by Rosanna Maietta, executive vice president of communications & public relations at AHLA and president of AHLEF, was originally published in LODGING‘s March 2019 issue.
At AHLA, we believe that there is no better place to launch a career than the hotel and lodging industry. More than half of hotel and department managers began their hotel careers in entry-level positions. In fact, many CEOs in this industry started their hospitality careers washing dishes. As an industry, we take incredible pride in that. At its core, the hotel and lodging industry is about people—especially the more than eight million people who work proudly in support of our businesses and guests. That is why we are committed to investing in our greatest resource—the men and women at the heart of hotels.
To reaffirm our commitment, AHLA has launched a new campaign, Hospitality Is Working. Why? Because it is. In every city across the country, hospitality is powering our workforce, protecting our employees and guests, and supporting local communities from coast to coast.
Investing in our workforce is making a real difference in people’s lives, including the life of Emani Wilson. Emani, a young woman based in Washington, D.C., recently graduated from our American Hotel and Lodging Foundation’s Empowering Youth Program, which provided her with a valuable hotel industry certification and gave her access to hands-on training in a local hotel, where she is now gainfully employed and was recently recognized as “Employee of the Month.”
“I gained valuable skills and job training to help me pursue a lifelong career in the hotel space. Thanks to that training, I secured a job just one week after finishing the program, and now I can be a role model for other young men and women from the district and help others find a similar career path.”
AHLEF Empowering Youth Program Graduate
Front Desk Agent, Concord Hospitality
Investing in Our Workforce
After working with countless amazing people like Emani, we are re-affirming our commitment to industry workforce initiatives. This year, we are pouring another $500,000 into the Empowering Youth Program to ensure that the hotel and lodging industry remains the best place to launch a career. These funds will go to community-based organizations to recruit and train promising young adults in high-demand markets, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Orlando.
And our industry offers more than just jobs—we offer lifelong careers and upward mobility. As such, we are also committed to creating a dynamic and successful workforce for generations to come. So, over the next five years, AHLA, along with our foundation, the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF), will award more than $5 million in scholarships and help 5,000 existing employees earn a college degree at no cost to them. But going to college is not the only path to management-level jobs. We have also committed to enroll 50,000 apprentices, certify 125,000 employees and job seekers, and train 8,000 Opportunity Youth for careers in our industry.
While the hospitality industry has experienced tremendous success, there are always more ways we can grow our workforce, which is why AHLA is supporting comprehensive immigration reform to ensure access to the hotel industry’s unique career opportunities.
Protecting Our Employees and Guests
On the issue of safety and security for our employees and guests, there is no room for compromise. The hotel industry has a long legacy of protecting employees and guests, and we are continuously reviewing and updating policies and procedures and investing in new technologies designed to help keep employees and guests safe.
Last September, we announced the 5-Star Promise, a comprehensive, unprecedented commitment to provide hotel employees at nearly 20 hotel brands across the United States with employee safety devices and policies, trainings, and resources aimed at enhancing hotel safety, including preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault. We will continue to work, day in and day out, to ensure hotels are safe for all those who work in and visit them.
Additionally, AHLA is proud to partner with national organizations, including End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Blue Campaign, and Polaris, to raise awareness about human trafficking, and develop trainings and tools tailored specifically to hotel industry employees.
Investing in Our Communities
With more than one billion guests annually and supporting more than $1 trillion in sales, the hotel and lodging industry is stronger and more vibrant than ever, proudly investing in the communities in which they operate. Hotels generate $167 billion in federal, state, and local taxes, and guests spend $238 billion on transportation, dining, shopping, and other activities at local businesses during their stays.
As a whole, America’s hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts are responsible for supporting millions of jobs, both on-site at hotels and throughout the communities in which they operate. The hotel industry has added 188,000 new jobs since 2010, and is currently 72,000 jobs ahead of its prior peak. A typical hotel supports more than 250 local jobs every year, and 61 percent of hotels—at more than 33,000 properties—are considered small businesses owned and operated by someone who lives in the community where they exist.
We are proud of our community investment and the rewarding career opportunities we provide. We can’t wait to work with you to make sure that Hospitality is Working in your community. This year, AHLA and AHLEF will be traveling across the country to show guests how our industry works and the endless possibilities that come with a career in lodging. We’re incredibly proud of the work we have done so far, but we’re not done yet. We hope that you will consider joining with us in this important work.