AAHOA Finds Its Footing

Due to a scheduling conflict, I wasn't able to attend last month's Asian American Hotel Owners Association convention in San Antonio. It was the first AAHOA annual meeting I've missed since the early 1990s, when the group was still struggling to grow and find its relevance in the industry. Instead, our features editor, Carlo Wolff, attended this year's meeting, the first he'd ever been to.

It was refreshing to hear about the event through a fresher pair of eyes as it made me realize again how powerful and important AAHOA has become in our industry. And its impressive strength goes beyond financial muscle (its 8,700 members own 22,000 hotels in the U.S. with a total valuation of more than $60 billion). The association has progressed beyond its original goals of eradicating discrimination against Asian-born hoteliers, although some of those prejudices still exist.

Today, under President Fred Schwartz and a passionate and dedicated team of volunteer leaders, AAHOA tackles many of the most important issues facing the lodging industry and, more importantly, hotel owners: fair franchising, immigration, minimum wage and more. While some of the battles, such as fair franchising, are waged with hotel brand companies, in recent years the group has taken the final step toward relevance with the launch of a concentrated and professional lobbying effort. AAHOA leaders routinely visit Washington to persuade legislators to see their way on a variety of issues, including both hotel-industry related ones as well as those affecting U.S. relations with India. These efforts culminate next March when AAHOA holds its convention for the first time in Washington, DC.

The hotel industry is blessed to have a number of great organizations to watch the backs of their members and everyone else in the business. None of these groups have come as far and as fast as AAHOA.

Disturbing news

I saw a disturbing news report last month that should concern every hotel owner and operator. According to research from George Washington University Medical Center, workers in the hotel business are more likely to suffer from alcohol problems than are employees in any other industry.

According to the study, 15 percent of hospitality workers have alcohol problems — not necessarily dependency but “use of alcohol in ways that lead to short-term safety problems and long-term health consequences.” This is an ominous revelation for anyone who runs a hotel. The implications are human, financial and legal.

By contrast, nine percent of all U.S. workers have issues with alcohol.

Congratulations, Ray

Ray Ellis, the expert on all issues related to safety and security in the hotel industry, has retired from his professorship at the University of Houston hotel school and as director of the Loss Management Institute.

In his 50-plus-year career in the hotel industry, Ray has been the iconic resource most hoteliers and hotel companies have turned to for answers to knotty lodging security problems. For much of his career, Ray was a staff member at the American Hotel & Lodging Association. He joined the Houston faculty in 1994.

I wish Ray a long and fulfilling retirement.

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