Looking back… to the future


Recently, while talking about his retirement from Best Western, David Kong, honorary AAHOA Lifetime Member, talked about how he came to this country as an immigrant with nothing. He said he didn’t have any friends, connections, or money. He was a student but had to get a job as a dishwasher and busboy to make ends meet. Fast forward to 2021: He was the industry’s longest-running CEO for one of the largest hotel companies in the world.

For many, the pandemic has left them with what feels like nothing. Some have lost their homes, some have lost their family members to COVID-19, and some have lost their jobs. In the hospitality field, many of those who were laid off left the field in droves, exploring other industries. But if David Kong’s story can teach us anything, it’s that if you have nothing, you also have nothing to lose. But there is one thing you do have: opportunity.

Across the country, AAHOA Members and the hospitality industry at large continue to deal with workforce shortages. Hoteliers who had no choice but to cut staff at the onset of the pandemic now have no choice but to fill those vacancies to stay afloat.

Unfortunately, recruiting and retaining employees continues to be a challenge. But Kong’s story sends a clear message about the hospitality industry: You might have to start at the bottom, but those with dreams and a strong work ethic can rise to the top.

This isn’t the first time the industry has suffered, and it won’t be the last. But no matter what happens, AAHOA’s advocacy efforts remain a top priority. My hope is that the leaders of AAHOA today leave a lasting impression on the leaders of tomorrow, just like David Kong.

During this pandemic, many hoteliers feel like he did years ago: starting fresh, and in desperate need of a dishwasher, busboy, or any hospitality-related job. But there is good news. If we can remain patient, those new hires might not only be successful but could be our next CEOs.

Keep that in mind when searching for the next generation of our industry’s leaders. Those with a true sense of hospitality and a passion for helping others need only a place to start. And AAHOA Members can provide that path to success and prosperity.

We are Team AAHOA, and we have so much more to accomplish together.


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