The American Hotel & Lodging Foundation (AHLA Foundation), the charitable giving arm of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), announced this week its plan to provide free resources to help industry employees—many of whom have been subject to furlough or reduced hours as a result of the COVID-19 crisis—to use this “downtime” to continue their education at no cost throughout the month of April. Rosanna Maietta, AHLA Foundation president and EVP of communications and public relations at AHLA, spoke to LODGING about how and why the Foundation made the decision to step into the breach with programs that will enable employees to use this unplanned hiatus productively.
How did you bring these initiatives together so quickly?
With nearly 4 million jobs lost—or about to be—we’ve been meeting daily, working feverishly to find creative new ways to serve the mission of the Foundation, which has historically been to provide programs leading to hiring opportunity youth into our industry or providing extra training to people already in the industry to give them a leg up to get them to that next level. Through some old school, hard-core negotiations with our educational partners who promote and produce the certification trainings, we were able to provide free opportunities for the month of April. Fortunately, they were really open and accessible, understanding that, right now, our employees need a link to the industry.
How are you making those who would benefit—for example, furloughed employees—aware of the resources being provided?
One of the benefits—if you can call it that—of this time is that we’re more hyper-engaged with our membership than ever before. We have frequent calls with our various committees and have launched a social media campaign targeting our members to help spread the word. Given that some employees have already been furloughed, we’re hoping the word will trickle down to them, that the companies with connectivity to them will make them aware of the free trainings and certifications we’re offering.
What about these programs is most exciting to you?
I think we all can agree this has been an extraordinarily crippling time for the hospitality industry in particular. In this time, when travel has virtually come to a halt, it’s been heartbreaking to see hotel after hotel close, and hotel workers so recently in high demand now facing reduced hours and furloughs. But, again, there are positives. For better or for worse, people are stuck at home, so they might as well be productive. Through these courses, they can stay connected to their jobs and also earn new certification, so they can not only return to their jobs with new skills, but can potentially go in a different and higher position. We’re also seeing properties committed to supporting their communities and stepping up to do just that by signing up for our Hospitality for Hope Initiative to connect hotel properties with the health community. Virtually overnight, we went from having 7,000 properties sign up to 14,000.
Now that stay-at-home orders are being extended, what comes next?
We’re still thinking of other ways we can use our background, courses, program, and our links to the industry in new creative ways, so hopefully, we’ll have more to announce in the coming weeks.