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.
Although she just recently joined the American Hotel & Lodging Association Foundation (AHLAF) Board of Trustees, Chief Human Resources Officer for Omni Hotels and Resorts Joy Rothschild told LODGING that’s she’s been involved with AHLA for, “I’m not exaggerating, at least 30 years.” Rothschild also spoke about what she learned throughout the pandemic, and why she’s focused on AHLAF’s Empowering Youth Program after the program had to hit “pause” last year.
What made you want to get involved with AHLAF?
My passion for career development. At Omni Hotels, one of our Core Values is “leaders creating leaders.” And that is what the AHLAF does.
What AHLAF initiatives are you most focused on this year?
The Empowering Youth Program. It provides opportunity to motivated youth, fills a real industry need, and strengthens communities. I initially became involved with that program from the outside—I wasn’t yet a Foundation member. But at Omni, we were having a tough time finding employees in certain markets. Remember, there was a hospitality labor shortage before the pandemic. So, I reached out to AHLAF and Shelly Weir mentioned that the Empowering Youth Program was about to launch, and it specifically targeted young people aged 16 to 24 who weren’t in school and weren’t working. Some of them had some issues in their past but wanted to work and needed to train for a career. We participated in the program’s Orlando and Dallas pilots. We brought in a number of young people and trained them as culinary apprentices. It was a win-win situation. You were doing something good for disadvantaged youth in your community and filling a real business need. It was something that we felt really good about, I thought it was a brilliant idea to try to create employees for life by going to a completely nontraditional pool.
The program had to be put on pause because of the pandemic, but AHLAF is looking to ramp it back up again at the end of 2021 so that come 2022, we’ll have a pool of newly trained individuals ready to join the industry.
Why does this initiative speak so strongly to you?
Well, if we’re going to start welcoming people back to our hotels, we need to be sure we have a pool of talent to staff those hotels. I hate to say it, but a lot of people who were furloughed have gone on to different careers. As many unemployed hospitality workers as there are out in the world, I don’t know that they’re all coming back to us. Some of them have gone to other industries and we’re going to need more people. I think this notion that we have all these laid-off hospitality people that are going to rush back to our doors, I don’t know if that’s the case. If that is the case, I’d be thrilled, but I think we’d be foolish not to be thinking about alternate pools of hospitality talent.
What are you enjoying most about being on the Board?
AHLAF has the right people on this board to raise money and support their efforts. These are people who are going to help doors open and move forward the organization’s mission. It’s so hard to get the right people on a board and I’ve been on boards where the people weren’t right for the job. I know that the people in this room are the right ones to make positive changes in our industry.
What have you learned about the hotel industry throughout the pandemic?
That we are resilient, adaptable to rapid change, and have an army of incredible individuals who performed heroic acts for our guests and co-workers under unimaginable circumstances. I cannot say enough about our employees who juggled working, parenting, teaching, and caregiving.
What is keeping you hopeful throughout this difficult time?
There is pent-up demand to travel when people feel safe. And when they do, we will welcome them with open—socially distanced—arms!
Editor’s note: Read LODGING’s spotlights on the women serving on the 2021 AHLAF Board here.