Washington Hospitality Association Launches After Year-Long Merger
Over the last year, the Washington Restaurant and Lodging Associations have been operating together, though independently. This month, they finalized their merger with a new name.
After operating under a joint agreement for the last year, the Washington Restaurant Association (WRA) and the Washington Lodging Association (WLA) have completed their merger under the new name: the Washington Hospitality Association (WHA).
The two groups announced their intention to merge last year, although they continued to operate separately until this month. The new name and accompanying logo mark the official launch of WHA.
“Today’s restaurateurs, hoteliers, and hospitality professionals face an unprecedented array of business and policy challenges at the state and local level. The hospitality industry needs an efficient, responsive, and results-oriented advocate that genuinely cares about people and community,” WHA CEO and former WRA CEO Anthony Anton said in a statement. “Our new association will help our members meet challenges, find solutions, and provide more opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and outreach than ever before.”
The launch also coincided with the selection of WHA’s new board of directors, made up of representatives from both the hotel and restaurant industries. “We really had diversity in mind so it was an opportunity to give ourselves a makeover, see what areas we’re missing in, and what we wanted to add to better represent Washington state hospitality as a whole,” Local Communications Manager Jillian Henze told Associations Now.
WHA now represents 6,000 members from the hotel and restaurant industries and will be “better able to leverage the strength of our resources at both associations to help all our members succeed, so we’re more of a heavyweight player now,” Henze said.
Specifically, WHA will be able to make greater strides on the legislative front through its expanded government relations team. The group placed government affairs managers and coordinators within the state’s major cities to influence legislation at the local level.
In addition, members can take advantage of both associations’ established programs, namely WRA’s Retrospective Rating program, which helps them save on their workers’ compensation premiums, Henze explained. Because of the merger, members have more opportunities for refunds through the program.
Over the year, the team has grown—though only one of the three WLA staff members stayed on when operations were relocated to WRA’s Olympia office and WLA CEO Jan Simon retired before the process concluded. The increased staff allows WHA to provide members with more training programs, up-to-date industry news, and connections with industry experts.
“The success of our state and hospitality businesses are tied,” Anton said in the release. “The more we offer an environment where our members can provide jobs, grow careers, support communities, and provide tax revenue, the stronger our entire state is.”
The Washington Hospitality Association's new logo. (Handout photo)