Human trafficking, illegal home rentals, finding qualified labor and increasing tourism to the U.S. are among the current top areas of focus for the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), according to Chip Rogers, President and CEO, who provided an update at last week’s Lodging Conference.
Rogers began by underscoring the association’s advocacy efforts in Washington, DC, and pointed out there are some 100,000 trade associations in the U.S. with whom they are competing.
“It’s an interesting story for us to tell of just how large our industry has become. Our industry now supports one out of every 25 American jobs...It’s important to remind policymakers of just how big the impact is on every single district in the U.S.,” he said.
Rogers further talked about the importance of promoting the industry and forging relationships on Capitol Hill. “When we are working with lawmakers the single best thing that we can do is have a relationship before we walk in the office. We need to have a reputation of what our industry is doing before we start asking for something, which is so critical when we start talking about things like the Five-Star Promise. This is what we should all be proud about because no other industry is doing more to protect our team members than we are,” he noted.
Rogers underscored the issue of labor noting that while there are some 8.3 million lodging jobs right now there are roughly a million that are unfilled. “This highlights perhaps the single biggest problem that faces our industry today and that is our workforce,” he noted.
Rogers pointed out the hospitality industry is poised to enroll some 50,000 apprentices in the next five years in response to the Trump administration urging a handful of industries to re-energize apprenticeships.
“I’m proud to say that our industry of hospitality, and that includes the AH&LA and the National Restaurant Association, have done more to enroll apprentices than any other industry in the U.S.,” he said, adding they will also be certifying some 125,000 job seekers and employees as well.
In terms of other efforts, Rogers noted the AH&LA plans to provide 5,000 no-cost college degrees and award more than $5 million in scholarships to people entering the industry out of hospitality schools.
Rogers also touted ongoing efforts to train and certify 8,000 opportunity youth.
“This is one that I hope strikes at the heart of what we are as industry...Our industry, unlike any other industry, can provide opportunities. If you have a good attitude, if you’re willing to work hard there’s nothing you can’t accomplish in our industry; there is no ceiling. If you talk to the leading CEOs time and again many of them started at the very bottom seeking that first opportunity,” he maintained.
Rogers also emphasized the importance of combating human trafficking, which impacts an estimated 40 million people every year. “It is the most critical issue that we are facing, not just in the lodging industry, but perhaps even from a global perspective,” he said.
Rogers outlined the association’s objectives. “Our goal is to make sure every single person that works in a hotel in the U.S. is trained to see the signs of human trafficking and then what to do with that information,” he noted.
Another critical issue for the industry is the continued emergence of illegal hotels on home sharing sites. The AH&LA has been active and successful in getting legislation changed within various cities with regards to illegal hotels. “We’re winning this war, it just takes a long, long time,” he commented.
Rogers continued, “All we’re saying is if you want to be in our industry we welcome you with open arms, but guess what? You got to play by the exact same rules; we will compete as an industry with anybody.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to international inbound tourism, Rogers pointed to a troubling trend, which needs to be reversed. “The good news is more people stayed in a hotel in 2018 than any year in American history. The bad news is that the global share of people coming to the U.S. began falling in 2015 and continues to slide. This is why we’ve got to promote Brand USA because when we market the U.S. to the rest of the world people come here and they like us,” he stated.
Rogers also urged hoteliers to join the association to continue to grow its membership and move forward with important causes. “If you’re not part of AH&LA we really need you to join us. We really need everybody in the industry going in the same direction, because we are facing some challenges that we can overcome if we’re united,” he said.