Chip Rogers talks industry challenges, goals for AHLA

Meetings and events are on the rise, especially as travel demand increases. Ahead of this year’s Lodging Conference, Hotel Business spoke with Chip Rogers, president/CEO, AHLA, about the show and what’s on the horizon for hospitality:

What do you enjoy about The Lodging Conference? Why do you return year after year? Why do you think industry executives keep returning to the show year after year? What do leaders gain from attending the show?
The Lodging Conference is a hospitality tradition. I attend because year after year, Harry Javer and his team do a terrific job bringing together hospitality’s top minds to learn, network and do business with one another.

It’s also an excellent opportunity for our AHLA and AHLA Foundation teams to hear concerns from leaders throughout the industry and provide updates about the important work AHLA and its foundation are doing across the country.

We’re a few years removed from COVID now. How have you seen meetings and events evolve/change?
One thing that COVID-related lockdowns and travel restrictions instilled in people is a greater appreciation for travel and human interaction. This is underscored by AHLA research that found that 68% of Americans have a greater appreciation for travel because of missed experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is obviously a plus for our industry as a whole, but also the meetings and events space, which Knowland forecasts will achieve a 114% recovery in 2023 compared to 2019.

What are some goals you have for AHLA for the remainder of the year? What goals do you think hoteliers should have? What should they be focusing on?
AHLA is a member-driven organization, and our priorities are the same as the hoteliers who make up our ranks. As we head toward the end of 2023, some of our top priorities include:

Addressing labor shortages: The hotel workforce situation is slowly improving, but not fast enough. That’s because there is an economy-wide shortage of workers. As of July, the U.S. had 8.8 million job openings, but only 5.8 million unemployed people to fill them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hotels are offering current and prospective employees near-historic wages, better benefits and more flexibility than ever before. This has helped lead to three straight months of accommodations job growth, but we still need help from Congress to ensure our members can hire enough workers to meet demand. That includes establishing an H-2B returning worker exemption, passing the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act and passing the H-2 Improvements to Relieve Employers (HIRE) Act.

Stopping Unite Here’s dangerous homeless plan: The Unite Here labor union is fighting to force all Los Angeles hotels to house homeless people next to paying guests. If they succeed, they’ll jeopardize the safety of both hotel guests and workers, virtually destroy the city’s tourism industry, and cause massive job losses. Hotels are laser-focused on employee safety and Unite Here should be too. That’s why we’re calling on Unite Here to drop its dangerous demand to turn hotels into homeless shelters—in LA or any other city where they might try it.

Protecting the franchise model: In New Jersey, AHLA is fighting legislation (A1958) that could soon become law and destroy the hotel franchise model that has paved the way for countless hoteliers and employees to achieve the American dream. The bill would make it harder for franchisors to enforce brand standards, restrict the use of loyalty points and intrude in other operations that help hotels keep guests happy.