Lead Stories

Dealing With Disruption

By Dennis Nessler | August 26, 2020

Cecil Staton noted he’s no stranger to disruption throughout his long and diverse career, but in his first year leading AAHOA as president and CEO he has encountered a challenge like no other with the Coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, his confidence has not wavered and his objectives remain lofty and unchanged.

Staton addressed the association’s membership during its 2020 Virtual Convention and Trade Show last week and clearly stated his goals. “I want you to be clear, my goal is for AAHOA (Asian American Hotel Owners Association) to become the most respected entity in the hospitality world, respected for its leadership and its service to its members,” he said.

Staton continued, “I want service on the AAHOA board to be the most prized and recognized honor in our industry. AAHOA will continue our 31-year journey, becoming nothing less than the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners. Despite the uncertainly of these times as an association we are prepared for where the road ahead may lead us. The COVID-19 pandemic is squeezing our industry like no crisis before, yet AAHOA remains strong and on solid footing.”

In fact, Staton pointed out that the association–which is now approaching 20,000 members—entered 2020 in very good economic shape. “We finished 2019 in a strong financial position through careful spending and increased value for investors,” he said, although he later acknowledged that “so much has changed” in recent months.

Staton–who took over the reins at AAHOA last November–brought with him decades of experience in the fields of government, academia, and business. Prior to joining AHHOA he was Chancellor Emeritus at East Carolina University. His ventures include founding two publishing companies and Georgia Eagle Media, a holding company with interests in multiple broadcast and print mediums.

“As we’ve seen in so many other industries the future is being shaped by technology and disruption. In fact, much of my experience is rooted in industries that have been disrupted by innovation. I’ve never served an industry that wasn’t undergoing disruption in one way or another; publishing, media, or education all continue to undergo radical changes,” he said.

The association leader further commented on some of the changes impacting hoteliers. “No industry is immune from disruption, including hospitality. It’s not just new technology and platforms for short-term rentals that are reshaping the guest and owner experience, there is perhaps no greater disruption than that which the COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict upon our industry. We saw our industry go from years of consecutive growth to a standstill seemingly overnight…How we approach labor, guest services, sanitation protocols, automation and other areas are all impacted and will continue to see significant shifts in the coming months and years,” said Staton

The CEO further discussed his position in the roughly nine months he’s been at the helm following the departure of Chip Rogers, the association’s previous CEO who went on to serve the AHLA in the same capacity.

“In my new role I’ve committed myself to learning as much as I can from you and meeting as many AAHOA members and industry partners and association partners as I can,” he added.

Staton specifically addressed with the membership how the association has responded to the events of the past several months. “Our response to this pandemic is member centric. We listen to your needs, look at how we can meet them in the short term and plan for supporting you and our industry in the long run. For hoteliers in the hospitality industry the road to recovery starts with AAHOA,” he said.

Staton further added, “AAHOA has great momentum and we’re riding high on a year of big achievements. Our dynamism and ambition has allowed us to adapt and pivot our resources to look forward and give you the resources you need to navigate and emerge intact from this crisis. I’m excited to explore the multitude of ways that AAHOA can and will help hoteliers to adapt.”

Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler is Editor-in-Chief of Hotel Interactive, parent company of Hotel Community Forum. Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience to his position, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. As part of his duties, Nessler not only covers the industry editorially but moderates various high-level panel sessions at hospitality events and frequently conducts one-on-one interviews with C-level executives.

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