AAHOA COO & VP of Franchise Relations
For much of the past year, I had the privilege of serving as AAHOA’s interim president and CEO. When Chip Rogers announced his departure in late 2018, the AAHOA Officers and Board of Directors trusted in me to take the helm as we searched for our next president and CEO. With the hiring of Cecil Staton late last year, it is time for me to resume my exclusive focus on operations and franchise relations.
Cecil joins AAHOA with a strong background as an entrepreneur, a lawmaker, and an executive. When we asked what we wanted in our next CEO, several things came to mind. He or she needed to have small business experience and an appreciation for all that comes with signing your name on someone’s paycheck. They needed to prioritize professional development and understand that education is a key component in helping AAHOA Members reach their potential as hoteliers. Maintaining and growing AAHOA’s engagement in the advocacy space was also a must-have. Perhaps most importantly, we felt our next CEO needed to understand AAHOA’s Members, your stories, your ambitions, and your futures. The Search Committee chose wisely in recommending Cecil for this role, and I look forward to working with him.
When I joined AAHOA several years ago, and even before that when I assisted my first AAHOA member with a franchise law issue more than 20 years ago, I could never have imagined that I’d serve as president and CEO of this great association, but I was honored to lead. This opportunity gave me new insight into how we serve our members and the role AAHOA plays in the broader hospitality industry, and I am proud of what we accomplished together.
The 30th anniversary celebrations during convention in San Diego were spectacular. It was our largest convention, and so many of AAHOA’s founding members and key players in our history came together to mark three decades of accomplishments and look forward to our future. As an association, we are at the strongest point in our history. Membership surpassed 19,300 last year, an all-time high. Jagruti Panwala became the first chairwoman in our association’s history. We partnered with Emerald Expositions to reimagine HX: The Hotel Experience Powered by AAHOA, and brought new educational and young professional dimensions to the longest-running hospitality trade show in the country. Our Human Trafficking Awareness Training continues to educate hoteliers and employees about the scourge of human trafficking and the unique role our members play in keeping this crime out of their hotels and communities, and we educated record numbers of members, giving them the tools to stay abreast of this ever-changing industry and operate their hotels at the highest level. We also advocated at the highest level in Washington and the State Capitals, as well as with the Brands.
I’ve always known that AAHOA and our members are well-respected within the hospitality industry, but during this past year, it became apparent to me just how many people look to us and our members for leadership and guidance. Thirty years ago, we established ourselves as a voice for American hoteliers. Now, we are the voice of America’s hotel owners. Our members’ perspectives as hoteliers, small business owners, franchisees, developers, financers, and community leaders are incredibly influential.
Brand executives, vendor partners, and elected officials actively seek out AAHOA and our members to inform important discussions about our industry. As AAHOA enters its thirty-first year, we remain an important voice and a powerful force in the hospitality industry, and I am excited to see what we will achieve next. I am grateful to our Officers, Board, Past Chairmen, Ambassadors, Committee Members, Industry Partners, teams in Atlanta and D.C., and our members who supported me personally and who supported this great association every step of the way, along with my family who made certain that I could serve AAHOA at the highest level. Thank you for this incredible journey, and I look forward to every one of our next steps together.