2016: A year of great accomplishment

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AAHOA leadership reflect on 2016-2017 triumphs and look forward to what to expect in 2017-2018 and beyond.

By AAHOA staff

Just under a year ago, then-newly minted AAHOA Chairman Bruce Patel outlined his vision for 2016 in the May issue of “Today’s Hotelier.” An aggressive PAC goal, an expanded franchise relations department, greater exposure and increased member engagement topped the list, and 11 months later the record reflects unprecedented growth and development across the board.

During the 2015-2016 election cycle, PAC donations surged past $1 million and more than 90 percent of supported candidates won their election, placing the AAHOA PAC among the largest and most effective in the hospitality industry. Total membership peaked north of 16,500 at the close of 2016, with lifetime membership currently standing at more than a third of that.

Educational engagement also reached an all-time high, as more than 7,100 AAHOA members participated in webinars, workshops, brand development days or development sessions at AAHOA regional meetings. A record number of members also earned their CHO designation.

Meanwhile, the election of AAHOA’s first-ever female officer at the 2016 convention led to more branding opportunities than anyone could have anticipated. The election of AAHOA’s 2016 Secretary Jagruti Panwala was instrumental in further branding the association as inclusive and future-oriented. As a result, officer speaking opportunities skyrocketed and helped cement AAHOA’s reputation as a credible and authoritative industry leader.

And, finally, AAHOA’s franchise relations department expanded to better serve members. Throughout 2016, the team fielded nearly 400 calls from members in 36 states on issues pertaining to franchise agreements, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits, city ordinances and HR law, to name only a few.

AAHOA’s growth is undeniable and its success makes for excellent article fodder. But with great success (to paraphrase a popular saying) comes great responsibility, and the association is gearing up to meet that responsibility head on in 2017 and beyond.

AAHOA is developing the next generation of leaders
AAHOA developed education and programming to meet the needs of its diverse membership base to reflect emerging industry realities. Women, young professionals (YP) and independent hoteliers are poised to play an even more central role in hospitality and in AAHOA’s evolution. AAHOA is committed to developing the next generation of leaders and to offering services and programs that are tailored to the needs and interests of all members.

Last summer, the first of AAHOA’s YP brand development days were hosted in collaboration with Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Hilton Worldwide. With space limited to 50 registrants, attendees were virtually guaranteed face time with brand leadership and plenty of networking space. Similarly, AAHOA and Choice Hotels International co-hosted a development day exclusively for women at Choice headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, while owners of independent properties took advantage of enrichment opportunities customized to the independent ownership experience.

Expanded options for professional development
Next, and in response to members’ shifting educational needs and busy schedules, AAHOA began rolling out dramatically expanded options for professional development and a new online platform.

While AAHOA’s CHO program remains a rock-solid foundation upon which to build any hospitality-industry career, there was clear demand for deeper dives into specific areas. In November, AAHOA held its first two-day educational workshop, “How to Form a Management Company.” The sold-out workshop offered firsthand insights and instruction from 10 of the most successful industry professionals in Texas. A second two-day workshop, “How to Develop a Hotel,” was completed in early March 2017, with other dates on the books for July and November.

The feedback was unanimous: advanced ownership topics, taught by the best in the business, were exactly what AAHOA membership wanted.

Partnerships and collaborations
Building on momentum generated by the workshops, AAHOA next moved toward collaboration with other established industry organizations. In late 2016, it formed a partnership with Hotel Management, a lodging-media mainstay, to co-host periodic day-long conferences around the United States titled Hotel ROI. This one-of-a-kind event departs from traditional conference structure by fostering meaningful one-on-one discussion between attendees and instructors and offering immediately applicable, location-specific industry metrics. Seven cities – Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Houston, Baltimore and Chicago – are confirmed for 2017.

In the same spirit of collaboration, in 2016 AAHOA also established a brand-new scholarship and endowment for students at the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Over the next five years, AAHOA will contribute $125,000 to the education of future hoteliers – an investment that is emblematic of AAHOA’s commitment to both its members and to the future of hospitality.

Expanding future educational programming
As 2017 gains momentum, AAHOA is developing more development opportunities based on industry trends and data and member feedback and creating relationships that will aid in expanding future educational options.

In addition to Hotel ROI, advanced-level two-day workshops, and tailored offerings for women, young professionals and independent hoteliers, AAHOA members can expect new brand and vendor internship opportunities and an enhanced member resource library – a fast-growing collection of electronic materials from industry experts on nearly a dozen topics, all of which are available 24 hours a day.

Growing in influence and prestige
Every year, AAHOA’s growth and success create more opportunities for expansion and advancement. New AAHOA leaders build on the hard work of their predecessors and add their own contributions, resulting in an association that is growing not only in size, but in influence and prestige. There is much to celebrate and even more to be done as AAHOA members take steps to shape their industry into one that continues to attract the most talented and innovative entrepreneurs in the world.

As the recognized voice of America’s hotel owners, it is a responsibility that AAHOA wholeheartedly embraces.               ■

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