Ecolab, the global leader in water, hygiene, and infection prevention solutions and services, has been busy over the past year working with its nearly 3 million customer locations—including hotels and restaurants—in 170 countries to ensure they have the necessary products, education, and hygiene practices to help keep facilities clean and safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to helping hospitality businesses navigate present challenges and prepare for what’s ahead, Ecolab is also supporting the industry’s future by investing in the next generation of hospitality leaders. Nearly 25 years after establishing the Ecolab Hospitality Scholarship, the company marked a significant milestone in 2020 as it reached $500,000 in academic and professional scholarships dispersed by the American Hotel & Lodging Foundation (AHLAF) to more than 350 students and hotel employees.
LODGING spoke with Greg Cocchiarella, Ecolab’s vice president of industry relations, about the impact of these scholarships—especially at a time when the global COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the industry and those pursuing a career in hospitality.
Can you describe Ecolab’s partnership with AHLA Foundation? Why is now an important time to invest in hospitality education for up-and-coming leaders in the industry?
AHLA and Ecolab have been partners for many years and we’re proud to continue our collaboration and support of the industry now more than ever. The AHLA Foundation’s mission of helping people build careers, improve their lives, and strengthen the lodging industry will be crucial as this industry begins to recover from the pandemic.
Ecolab is very proud to have officially achieved $500,000 in academic and professional scholarships through the AHLA Foundation. We started the scholarship program in 1996 as a commitment to the lodging industry and to support the development of future leaders. The AHLA Foundation disperses these hospitality scholarships to undergraduate hospitality majors chosen based on academics, financial need, and relevant work experience, and are really focused on people who have a passion for pursuing a career in the hotel and lodging industry. Considering what this industry has gone through in the past 10 months, the need is significant.
What kind of feedback have you received from scholarship recipients?
A senior majoring in hospitality and tourism management at the University of Maryland said that while COVID has had a significant impact on the industry, she is planning on becoming an event manager at a hotel and one day owning her own event planning business. The Ecolab hospitality scholarship comes at a time when other financial aid for the year has been exhausted and allows her to graduate next May. She hopes to one day repay the favor by helping her peers in the hospitality industry achieve their goals just like Ecolab has helped her.
That’s really powerful. We have the opportunity to review all applications that are submitted and to hear everyone’s unique story. Supporting these dedicated students and employees who are vital to our economy is extremely rewarding.
Is there anything that stood out to you about this year’s applicants?
I would say the common theme is that there is a lot of financial stress that is occurring. Students have tears of joy when they open their email announcing the scholarship. We are investing in this industry and building future leaders across all hotels and management companies and providing opportunities for those who otherwise would not have been able to go to college. We play a role in helping support these students in their education and to help them achieve their goals in life. That is very impactful.
What gives you hope for the future of the industry?
I’ll give you an example of one of the things that Ecolab is doing in response to what we’re hearing from customers in the industry: We created a program called Ecolab Science Certified, a science-based program that combines hospital disinfectants and other sanitizers, comprehensive public health and food safety training and procedures, and periodic auditing to help deliver a higher level of cleanliness. Hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores that follow the rigorous program criteria can earn the Ecolab Science Certified seal, a visible commitment to advancing cleaner, safer practices.
The commitment from across the industry to help instill a higher level of cleanliness—and what we’ve done through the Ecolab Science Certified program—is giving the industry and consumers confidence. People want to get back out and travel, go to restaurants, and eat out. This situation is unprecedented, but we’ll get through it together.