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.
Tricia Primrose, global chief communications and public affairs officer for Marriott International, shared with LODGING her own path to hospitality, how she got involved with AHLAF, initiatives for the year ahead, and more.
How did you get your start in hospitality?
I was a hostess at Houston’s Restaurant in Georgetown while I was in college, which was a lot of fun and a lot of work—particularly on a Saturday night when we’d have one-hour waits for a table. I loved the buzz and energy. After college, I was a part-time waitress at a small Italian restaurant to supplement my salary from my first job. I loved interacting with people and enjoyed the pace and camaraderie among the restaurant staff. After working in government, politics, and for a technology company and a media company, I landed my dream job at Marriott International in 2015. What struck me the most when I arrived at Marriott was how much I loved hospitality and how I wished I had spent my entire career in the industry because of the people-centric nature of the culture, which is unlike the other industries in which I’ve worked.
How did you get involved with AHLA Foundation?
I was honored to be asked to join the AHLA Foundation’s Board of Trustees. In my role at Marriott, I oversee our social impact and community-based work for the company to address some of the industry’s most pressing issues. Being involved with the Foundation is a great way to amplify the work we’re all doing individually so we can have a collective impact greater than what any of us can achieve alone. The work the Foundation does has been impactful for years but there is an urgency now given COVID-19—the single biggest crisis our industry has ever faced. The hospitality industry is known for standing together to grapple with tough issues, and that’s what the AHLA Foundation is doing in this critical time—helping employees who have lost their positions or have been furloughed because of the gravity and far-reaching nature of the pandemic. We need the AHLA Foundation all the time, but we really need them in this crisis to help raise awareness and, importantly, raise funds that are deployed to help strengthen our industry through innovative programs.
What Foundation initiatives are you working on this year?
In addition to COVID-19 initiatives, the Foundation is tackling the most pressing issues facing the industry including diversity, equity, and inclusion; workforce development; and human trafficking awareness. These issues are important across the industry and they are certainly key focus areas for Marriott. That’s been one of the great aspects of serving on the board of the Foundation; there is terrific synergy between the work of the Foundation and Marriott’s efforts in these priority areas. For example, Marriott has done significant work on human trafficking awareness training. We developed training to teach hotel workers how to spot the signs of human trafficking and what to do. Since we rolled the program out, we’ve trained over 825,000 people who wear a Marriott name badge around the world, and we’ve donated the training thanks to a partnership with AHLAF and ECPAT so it can be a free resource for the industry.
How has COVID impacted that to-do list?
COVID-19 tops the to-do list because of its urgency. In this area, the Foundation is focused on employees who have been furloughed to give them the resources they need to continue to develop their skills and advance their education. As important as this work is, the Foundation has continued to make progress against its other key priorities during this challenging period. In 2020, the Foundation announced a significant commitment to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the hotel and lodging industry. The AHLA Foundation recognizes the importance of education and opportunity and how the intersection of the two is what will power a more diverse hospitality workforce and leadership in the future.
What is one thing you wanted hoteliers to know about AHLA Foundation?
At the single most challenging time in the history of hospitality, the AHLA Foundation is pulling us together to address some of the most pressing issues facing our industry. Hoteliers should know that the work the Foundation is doing is thoughtful, substantive, results-driven, and entirely funded by donations. We’re looking forward to making more progress in the years ahead and are grateful to the industry for its support.
Editor’s note: Read LODGING’s spotlights on the women serving on the 2021 AHLAF Board here.