Members of the American Hotel and Lodging Association played an integral role in restructuring the organization’s membership and governance models to fit the industry’s changing needs.
Driven by clear member demand for a new direction for their organization, the American Hotel and Lodging Association approved restructured membership and governance models last week that aim to more fully engage members across all segments of the lodging industry. The changes are set to go into effect next year.
Responses to a member survey showed that “very resoundingly, [members] wanted AH&LA to focus on government relations and advocacy, communications, and being the voice of the industry,” said President and CEO Katherine Lugar. “In order to do that effectively, it also became clear that the current membership model that we had in place needed to change.”
The organization will move from a dual-membership model—where members join a state-level association and have a portion of their dues go toward membership in the national organization—to one where hotel companies, property owners/real estate investment trusts, management companies, individual hotels, and allied partners can choose to join at the state or national level.
“We’re heading toward a little bit more of a traditional trade association model, but one that allows us to harness every segment of the lodging industry,” Lugar said. “At the foundation will be new councils that we’re forming for every segment of our membership, so that when someone joins AH&LA they know exactly where they plug in and how they can directly engage and have a platform to push for the things that are important to them.”
Each industry segment will have balanced representation on the board, executive committee, and nominating committee, said Lugar. “That’s really important so we can provide that platform for broad engagement and make sure that we are giving every segment a role in the new association.”
An advocacy steering committee is being created, which will help drive public policy decisions for the national organization.
“That is going to be its own class of membership,” Lugar said. “Anybody in our membership can elect to pay a separate membership fee to be a part of that group. It’s clear that if folks are putting financial skin in the game they want to have seat at that table.”
In designing the new structure, Lugar—who’s been on the job herself for only two months—said communicating openly and keeping members involved were crucial.
“Change like this needs to be driven by the members and for members,” she said. “We were really careful throughout the process to ensure that they had input every step of the way, and it’ll continue to work that way going forward. Then it’s about communicating throughout, making sure people understand why the change is important and how it’s going to benefit them in the long run.”
As for her first two months on the job?
“The proverbial baptism by fire doesn’t even begin to cover it,” Lugar said. “It’s exciting, though, to come in and work with the organization to build this in a way that accomplishes the mission. As a leader, it’s an incredible opportunity to come in and mold and shape an organization.”