The American Hotel & Lodging Association Foundation has announced a $5 million commitment and a five-year plan aimed at enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry.
“We’re announcing a bold, $5 million commitment to advance (diversity, equity and inclusion) across the industry – bringing the industry together in a unified way to help everyone in the industry who is already dedicated in this effort to build on where they are to see greater and faster impact,” Rosanna Maietta, president & CEO of the AHLA Foundation, told USA TODAY.
AHLA has 27,000 members, including 10 of the largest hotel companies, in the U.S., including Marriott, Wyndham, Hilton and Hyatt, and 80% of franchise hotels.
A task force created last year with industry executives identified four guiding principals for the new initiative including:
- Diversifying representation on all employee levels to better serve guests, communities and associates.
- Elevating diverse and inclusive leaders across different corporate entities, franchisees, properties and networks.
- Driving both accountability and transparency to reach measurable results.
- Fostering new, innovative approaches to scale diversity, equity and inclusion within the hotel and lodging industry as a whole.
The AHLA Foundation is on a mission to to create a diversity, equity and inclusion blueprint for the industry.
Historically, the AHLA Foundation focused on workforce programs to increase opportunity – including trainings to help employees advance, Greg Juceam, president and COO of G6 Hospitality, who is also the chair of the AHLA Foundation Board, told USA TODAY, noting that the foundation will continue to do those things.
This kind of commitment is new for the industry and the foundation. “We have been giving away $1 million in scholarships (for hospitality education) every year but nothing in this type of dedicated, multi-pronged effort,” Maietta said.
“We did recognize coming out of the summer last year when the spotlight was so focused on diversity that we can and should do more,” Maietta said. “We were keenly aware that we could grasp the moment that we’re in and do more to advance greater awareness, but more than just awareness, action.”
While the commitment comes with a five-year plan, Maietta said the changes and programs implemented as a result are meant to be permanent.
The foundation wants to create an industry toolkit to advance diversity, equity and inclusion this year, given that the needs of lodging members vary considering they run the gamut of size and type of lodging, according to Juceam.
Goals for the first year include a leadership academy focused on increasing representation on the executive level; a cross-industry mentorship program for employees to be paired with leaders at different companies; and a national ad campaign to promote awareness of the commitment and to attract new, diverse talent to the industry; and metrics to create transparency and hold the industry accountable, according to Maietta.
In the four years to follow, the AHLA Foundation also plans to add unconscious bias trainings along with job resources, coaching for the executive level and a knowledge-sharing program intended to help companies to share resources.
“These activities were chosen to balance foundational elements and bold initiatives to drive DEI across the industry,” Maietta said.
The foundation will continue to invest in programs and resources beyond the five years and is actively fundraising to grow its financial commitment.
“There’s an opportunity for everyone in hotel and lodging,” Juceam said. “The barrier is low …. and upward mobility is high.”
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