The pandemic dealt a huge blow to the hotel and lodging industry. To help the hoteliers get back together in person and understand the current state of the industry, the American Hotel and Lodging Association is hosting a series of free events in different parts of the country.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association is hitting the road for a series of events across the country to get industry professionals back together again—something that is much needed after COVID-19 upended the travel sector and people’s ability to gather in person.
“First and foremost, we wanted to get back to having live events,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “As an industry that thrives on people all across the country taking part in live events, we felt it was important for us to lead on that issue.”
Called “AHLA on the Road,” the series of free events began last month in Boston and will include three more stops this year in Texas, Illinois, and California. Rogers says the events are helping members and other industry professionals network at a crucial time.
“There’s been a lot of turnover in the last 18 months, and a lot of people within our industry—even at the city level—aren’t necessarily familiar with others who are working in that same city, so bringing people together for that is really important,” Rogers said.
In addition to offering networking opportunities, AHLA also wants to use these gatherings to share what is going on in the industry, especially in the region where the event was taking place.
“You hear the data all the time about the recovery and how it’s happening great or that it’s been happening across the country, but it’s really been very regionalized,” Rogers said. “So, what’s happening in Florida is altogether different than what’s happening in New York and places like that. Making sure that folks understand what’s going on in their local market, I think, is very helpful.”
Along those same lines, the events help industry professionals take the knowledge of what’s happening in their area and apply it to grassroots advocacy for their region.
“We found a lot of great value in engaging at the local level for the purposes of building coalitions and building grassroots efforts within our industry,” Rogers said. “And so having people involved, even at the city council level, the state level, is really helpful to all that we’re trying to accomplish.”
The first event in Boston, Rogers says was “a good event” and well received by those who attended, but he noted that it was also a learning experience for AHLA. Turnout for free events is always tough to fully estimate because more typically register than actually attend. Even with historical knowledge on free turnout, the numbers were a bit lower than AHLA anticipated, and Rogers said, “We’ve got to do a better job of following up.” With AHLA currently applying that follow-up principle, he expects the next event in San Antonio to be “even stronger.”
Rogers recommended that other organizations consider hosting some in-person events because it will make their use of digital—when they do use it—more effective.
“Being able to meet in person builds a relationship that can then be used in a digital format,” Rogers said. “If you don’t have the opportunity to meet in person, I don’t think that your digital format meetings are going to be nearly as effective, because you just don’t have those personal relationships.”