Mark Carrier’s Journey to the Top of the Industry

Some of the hotels in B. F. Saul’s portfolio, such as the luxury property The Hay Adams, located just across Lafayette Park from the White House, even have special protocols around the inauguration period. “Due to its prime location, The Hay-Adams will certainly be the company’s busiest hotel during those days in January. The hotel leadership team is expert at managing this event and the staff is impeccable in their service and attention to guests’ needs,” Carrier says.

Certainly, Carrier has developed a unique point of view of the hospitality industry by sticking with B. F. Saul for more than three decades. But that isn’t to say his career has lacked variation or new challenges. Having the same company at his back for more than 30 years has allowed Carrier to spread his wings in other organizations, such as the IHG Owners Association and, of course, AHLA. He also invests directly in the industry in partnership with his brother Lou, who leads a management and ownership company called the Distinctive Hospitality Group.

Carrier says that his experience with organizations such as the IHG Owners Association really influenced the way he’s approached his growing responsibilities at AHLA. “At the IHG Owners Association, there is great diversity in membership and partners. There were large ownership groups with many hotels, smaller owner groups, management companies, as well as single-property owners. So we listened and engaged with our members in a way that give us, the leadership, an understanding of their different perspectives. And to this day, I think that is the most important thing to keep in mind when helping lead an association,” says Carrier. “We’re only a strong coalition if we have a clear understanding of the perspectives and experiences of our members. Our diversity and reach is a significant strength if we work together for the broad good and respect many points of view.”

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Another great benefit, adds Carrier, “It was an opportunity to engage with senior executives of IHG and the industry such as Jim Abrahamson, immediate past-chair of the AHLA, and engagement with leading organizations such as AAHOA. I have met lifelong friends, colleagues, and partners through our service together.”

As the new chair of AHLA, Carrier has internalized the importance of the hospitality industry to U.S. workers and the overall economy and is ready to work on behalf of the organization’s 24,000 members. “We’re a large and diverse industry. We provide power to the economy and have a huge reach across the country. We support 8 million jobs and a broad range of stakeholders. We need to be our own advocates, and I’m prepared to help the amazing, professional team of AHLA champion an agenda that will positively affect the broad range of stakeholders in our fine industry.”

This involves furthering AHLA’s existing advocacy goals, such as battling deceptive booking practices, speaking out against hotel-targeted employment regulations, and facing the challenges that rise from the facilitators of illegal hotels. “These are all issues that have a structural impact on our industry. And if we work together and truly tap the strength of our broad industry in our efforts, we can affect positive change for all stakeholders. AHLA will continue to think ahead, plan, and strategize; we won’t just react to issues as they come up,” he says.

Carrier says that as chair, his number one priority is to support the established trajectory of AHLA and focus in on these advocacy objectives. “I want to help us seize opportunities while supporting the well-crafted strategic plan that the AHLA Board has endorsed.”

Carrier also has a secondary focus: Deliberate and careful expansion of AHLA’s capabilities. Over the past four to five years, the organization has grown tremendously and its financial resources have practically tripled. “It’s critical that we grow the funding behind AHLA advocacy efforts and successfully position ourselves to make a difference,” Carrier explains. This year, AHLA has a budget of nearly $20 million, which is much more significant than the only $7 million it had at its disposal just five years ago. “The funding growth, which came from owners, brands, management companies, states, and key affiliate partners, is being allocated smartly and appropriately. Many people have worked hard to earn these resources and we need to ensure that we use them to make our national association strong and stable. We also must continue to diversify and ask other stakeholders in the industry to financially commit to our mutual success,” adds Carrier.