On Sunday, at AH&LA’s annual Fall Conference in New York City, Jim Abrahamson, CEO of Interstate Hotels & Resorts, stepped into the role of AH&LA chair. Abrahamson and two other industry executives—Mark Carrier, president of B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group and new AH&LA vice chair, and Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group and new AH&LA secretary/treasurer—will advise and guide the association for the next two years.
Speaking at the association’s inaugural gala held at the Waldorf Astoria, Abrahamson stressed the need for a unified voice to tackle the key issues facing the lodging industry.
“There are so many incredible aspects of the hotel industry, but today we face many direct threats,” he said. “From extreme wage battles in cites around the country, to new entrants to the marketplace, such as Airbnb and the online travel companies—and ensuring that there is a level playing field, to protecting the franchise model as we know it. We must not take these issues lightly. And we won’t.
“When playing offense, we know there are great revenue opportunities in front of us, particularly with the growth of inbound international travel, which will provide for over 100 million travelers to the U.S. by 2021,” Abrahamson continued. “The expansion of the Visa Waiver Program and reauthorization of Brand USA are central to our efforts and require AH&LA support.
“As we look to Washington, perhaps the election results of the past week will send a powerful message: Both sides of the aisle and the White House must rise to the challenge and act in a responsible manner to advance the needs of the American economy.
“We can remain optimistic,” Abrahamson said. “If Congress and the President seize the moment, we can make progress and work together on broader issues such as labor, immigration, health care, TRIA, and, of course, tax reform.”
Active with AH&LA at the state and national levels since the 1980s and a Certified Hotel Administrator, Abrahamson has also served as chair of the AH&LA CEO Council and is a member of the Governmental Affairs and HotelPAC Committee. Additionally, he is first vice chair of the U.S. Travel Association.
Citing the efforts of previous AH&LA Chair John Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Fitzpatrick Hotel Group, North America, Abrahamson said that AH&LA will remain in the center of the action. “We can remain hopeful, but progress will also require your engagement. And we need the rest of our millions of employees and associates to lean in as well to make the difference.”
The challenge facing AH&LA and its members boils down to one key concept, Abrahamson added. “Working together, we are powerful. Acting together, we are stronger.”