Drawn to the Excitement

Laura Lee Blake, President/CEO, AAHOA

Laura Lee Blake

What initially inspired you to get into the hospitality business? There is no greater industry than hospitality. It inspires people and every imaginable aspect of life occurs in hotels and within travel. Babies are born in hotels and people get married in hotels. There’s the joy and the passion and everything that goes along with the travel of individuals and families. That’s what drew me to the hospitality industry, just the excitement that surrounds the entire industry.

Who were some of your mentors or role models, male or female, and what were their most valuable lessons? The first mentor was Ed Connor, currently with the law firm of Connor, Fletcher & Hedenkamp LLP in Irvine, California. Ed is a brilliant attorney and a man of integrity. He taught me early on to stand up for what is right, just and true, and to never back down from it. Despite great challenges, he stood firm to protect his clients and achieved amazing results.

The second mentor was former AAHOA President Fred Schwartz. Fred taught me to navigate the challenges of serving this amazing association with so many different positions and perspectives. Fred focused on finding common ground to work together for the benefit of all.  

They were two great mentors who always encouraged me and opened doors of opportunity for me to pursue. I would not be here without their wisdom and support. 

In your opinion, how is the lodging industry doing in terms of getting women into leadership positions? I give the whole industry definitely a thumbs up. I think there’s still, of course, room for improvement. But especially in the years that I was gone and now returned I have seen significant improvement with both the awareness of the need for women to be more involved and also the results. So we’re starting to see more and more women in leadership positions and so it’s both an exciting and an encouraging time.

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