This week, LODGING is turning the spotlight on the women serving on the 2021 AHLA Foundation (AHLAF) Board of Trustees. These ambitious and successful female executives bring decades of hospitality experience to their Board positions, and their perspective is essential as the hotel industry begins to rebound from the devastating impact of COVID-19.
Elizabeth Mullins, vice president of global lodging at the Walt Disney Company, connected with LODGING to talk about her very first industry job, her connection to AHLAF, and how hoteliers can support each other during this difficult time.
How did you get your start in hospitality?
I was five years old when my father took me to afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton Boston. I loved everything about that visit—especially the way the hotel made me feel. I looked at my dad and said, “Daddy this is what I want to do. I want to run a hotel one day and I want to work here!” Just six days after my college graduation, I joined the Ritz-Carlton and started my career at that very same hotel. In 2016, after 28 wonderful years with The Ritz-Carlton, I joined The Walt Disney Company. Our brand of story-driven hotels, filled with magic, is an amazing capstone to a lifetime in hospitality.
What made you become involved with AHLAF?
The mission of AHLAF is so impactful. It provides scholarships, training. It also focuses on diversity and inclusion and workforce development. This is my way of giving back to an industry that has given me so much opportunity.
How has the pandemic impacted your day-to-day work?
So much has changed in the last year. This situation has caused us to look at every aspect of this business and adapt—from incorporating safety measures to right-sizing for physical distancing to working from home. I believe the lessons we’ve learned from this challenge have made us stronger, not only today, but for the future of this industry. We have had a moment that transformed us—and it’s been challenging—but I am so proud of my team, all that we have accomplished, and the bright future ahead.
What parts of the industry do you think will be permanently changed by the pandemic?
The needs for our customers and guests have changed and understanding the new consumer journey will be paramount to our success. I believe that there are many aspects of the hotel business that will be fundamentally changed for the long term. For example, the enhanced cleaning measures we’ve adopted are now an expectation and will continue to evolve. Also, for those of us who are not in the day-to-day operations, our ability to “work from anywhere” has an impact on how and when we work, how we engage with our teams, and how we prioritize work in the future.
How can hoteliers support the Foundation at this time?
This has been such a difficult and challenging time in our history, and now is the perfect time to be part of our future—to do something to give back and ask ourselves how we can continue to fortify the future of our industry. I would encourage everyone in the industry to invest their time, experience, and capital to make sure that we are building future generations of hoteliers.
Editor’s note: Read LODGING‘s spotlights on the women serving on the 2021 AHLA Foundation (AHLAF) Board of Trustees here.