From the labor issue to the slowdown in group business, AH&LA President and CEO Chip Rogers addressed some key industry issues and offered an update on the association’s ongoing efforts during last week’s ALIS Conference.
Rogers acknowledged there is plenty of “good news,” but he pointed out that challenges still exist.
“Room revenue is practically back up to about 99% so we’re basically back to even, but the problem is meetings and conventions. Meetings, conventions and events are still only going to be about 58% of where we were in 2019. That is a problem because that’s still significant losses,” he said.
Those losses have necessitated financial assistance for the industry, according to Rogers, who estimates that the industry has lost some $110 billion in the last two years alone.
“Now we at the AH&LA have to turn our focus to our friends in Washington, DC, and start asking for assistance, which is always tough to do especially at a time when every other industry across the country is also asking for assistance. So now as we look back over the last couple of years we say to ourselves ‘how much will we be able to get for the industry?’ he asked.
Nevertheless, Rogers insisted that the labor crisis remains the number one issue for the lodging industry and he pointed to some “staggering” data.
“If you go back to 2019 and look at the number of people that actually work directly in the hotel industry we’re still down by 166,000 people. That’s 166,000 people that are no longer part of our industry; they’ve moved on elsewhere. We’ve got to get new people to fill those jobs and create those careers,” he said.
In response, the AH&LA is launching a series of activities designed to change the narrative of what it means to work in hospitality.
“Wages alone are not going to solve this. Yes, they’ve gone up and they’ve gone up considerably, but that is not the only part of the solution. Unless we can convince people that the hotel industry, hospitality in general, is a place they can build a career and that they can be well compensated we’re going to continue to have this problem. So that is our focus,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, Rogers highlighted the progress of its human trafficking campaign, which was launched two years ago.
“I’m very proud to say that just last year alone we trained more than half a million people. Our goal is to train every single hotel employee across the United States. It’s a goal we’ll never achieve, but we want to get as close as we can. If you don’t think that this matters, if you think it’s just another one of those campaigns, the numbers are staggering,” he said.
He further touted the potential of the program.
“If we take this half a million employees and make it 3 million employees over the next few years imagine how many more lives can be saved. We can send the strongest message possible and that is human trafficking will never be found in hotels,” he concluded.