by KENNETH H. FEARN
This year has certainly been a year for the ages, and we still have another month to go. When I look back on the year, I will certainly remember:
- The words “pandemic” and “COVID-19”
- The sheer panic as I witnessed the draconian revenue declines at our hotels starting in March as bookings canceled in waves
- Receiving mandates in April that hotels in Miami and Myrtle Beach were being ordered to close until further notice
- The gut-wrenching discussions regarding furloughing employees as our occupancies plummeted
- Working continuously to reposition our hotels to create demand while at the same time looking for new means to reduce expenses
- Working around the clock to obtain support from Congress and the Trump administration for an aid package to support the hotel industry
- And, of course, my personal journey and the challenges my family and I faced as we hunkered down to get through the pandemic
I also will look back on this period as I move forward with a number of takeaways.
First, there is strength in numbers and in diversity. As the pandemic took hold of the country in March and April 2020, AAHOA, The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators, and Developers (NABHOOD), and the Latino Hotel Association (LHA) were working feverishly to garner support for our industry.
We were speaking and comparing notes, but our efforts were disjointed. We quickly realized that we could have much more impact if we were speaking with a unified voice and working together. As a result, we started sending communications to Congress and the Trump administration from all four associations, we spoke with increased frequency, and we even held joint Zoom calls. We were able to educate members of Congress and the Trump administration that small- and medium-sized businesses are well represented in the hotel industry.
This came as quite a surprise to many that I spoke to. Most had no idea that members of AAHOA, NABHOOD, and LHA own 35,000 of the approximately 60,000 hotels in the U.S. Through our combined efforts, we were able to positively impact the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) passed by Congress. The collective efforts of the associations have continued at a feverish pace to educate Congress and the Trump administration on the need for additional support and the need for support in a timely manner.
A LASTING CHANGE
My second takeaway is that our associations should continue to work collectively after the pandemic to address concerns and issues facing our industry. We bring a strong collective voice to the discussion important to be heard across the political spectrum. I would like to see our associations have scheduled quarterly calls to discuss our industry’s needs and to prioritize them and lay forth strategic direction for addressing those needs. I also believe AAHOA, NABHOOD, and LHA could be an important resource for our members in addressing other owner issues that affect us all.
Finally, I would say it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Chairman of NABHOOD and work closely with the leadership of AAHOA, LHA, and AHLA. The men and women of these organizations work tirelessly on behalf of the hotel industry. Anyone reading this and wanting to get involved should reach out immediately. There is plenty of work to be done and we are stronger together.